The Peninsula Oilers finished their regular season Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai by splitting a doubleheader against the Anchorage Bucs.
Now, Peninsula plays the waiting game.
As a result of the 1-0 loss and 8-7 victory, the Oilers finish Alaska Baseball League play at 15-29 in their battle with the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks for the fourth and final spot in the Top of the World Playoffs.
The Chinooks are currently at 13-28 and have two games left — today on the road against the Mat-Su Miners, and Wednesday at home against the Miners.
Chugiak-Eagle River lost 5-1 at home Monday to the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. The Chinooks now must win both of their remaining games to have a shot at the playoffs.
If the Chinooks win their last two, things get interesting. Chugiak-Eagle River would then have one less game than the Oilers due to a rained out contest vs. the Bucs on July 23.
If that game were not to be made up, the Chinooks would make the playoffs due to having a better winning percentage.
But Oilers head coach Kyle Brown and general manager Victoria Smith said Sunday that the game should be made up if the Chinooks win their last two. That’s because if Chugiak-Eagle River would lose the makeup game, the Chinooks and Oilers finish with the same record and the Oilers go to the playoffs based on having a better head-to-head record.
“That game should me made up if it impacts the playoff race,” Brown said.
Smith said the ABL’s bylaws say that games that impact the playoff race must be made up. The Oilers or Chinooks would get the Bucs, who have the league’s top record at 29-14, in the first round. The Pilots (26-18) and Miners (24-18) would play in the other semifinal.
The Oilers were able to force the Chinooks to win their last two by shaking off a rough loss in Sunday’s first game.
Connor McCord sparkled for the Oilers, going all seven innings and giving up five hits and a run while walking just one and striking out 13. The 13 whiffs were the most by a pitcher in the ABL this season.
But Mason Wells outdueled McCord, pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up three hits while walking none and striking out six.
“In the first inning, he caught a groove and rolled with it through the whole game,” Bucs coach Grant Palmer said of Wells.
McCord said Sunday was not even his best outing of the year. July 9 against the Pilots, McCord went seven innings of a nine-inning game without allowing a hit.
Against the Bucs, McCord said all four of his pitches were working. He added his changeup was key to keeping Anchorage off balance. The Western Oregon junior said he didn’t even get a lot of strikeouts in his first two years of college ball, but now he is second in the ABL with 45.
“I learned a lot from my pitching coach,” he said of Western Oregon’s Mike McInerney. “He taught me to throw every pitch with intent and to throw it hard.”
In the third, Ryan Sullivan doubled to the wall to score Chad Castillo from first with the winning run. Sullivan is second in the league with 13 doubles.
“He’s kind of been that guy,” Palmer said of Sullivan. “He’s had big hits all season for us.”
Brown has been saying for a while that they key to the Oilers success is producing with two outs. Peninsula did that in a big way to take the second game.
Down 2-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, the Oilers scored all seven runs with two away to take a commanding 8-2 lead.
A little burst of wildness by Bucs starter Brett Finnel was enough to tag him with the loss. The Oilers got four hits in the inning, but Finnell helped things along by hitting two batters and also issuing his only two walks of the game.
The Oilers then held on for dear life as the Bucs stormed back.
Starter and winner Jonathan Carlos gave up his third run of the game before departing after five. Reliever Jake Fenn then gave up a run in the sixth for an 8-4 lead.
Heath Olive came in to close and struggled with wildness, walking two and hitting one as the Bucs closed the gap to 8-7 and had the bases loaded with two outs before Chaney Rogers flew out to third.
“He just likes to make things interesting,” said Brown of Olive.
The Oilers bullpen sat silent in the crucial game as the Bucs rallied and even after Brown made a visit to the mound.
“I told him I was going to ride or die with him,” Brown said. “I wasn’t going to take that dude out until he lost the lead.”
Giancarlo Servin led the Oilers with two hits, while Bobby Goodloe and Jonah Henrickson joined Servin with two RBIs. Travis Bohall scored a pair of runs.
Castillo, Victor Cerny and Braxton Bohrofen had two hits for the Bucs.
The Oilers also got some good news this weekend on the coaching front. Assistant Ryan Doran left the team after being promoted to pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Division I New Mexico State University, which Brown said is a major jump from Doran’s past job at a junior college in California.
Also in coaching news, Gary Adock attended a few Oilers games this week in his capacity as head coach at Cal Baptist. Adcock has the top winning percentage in Oilers history at .676 after serving as head coach in 1999 and 2000.
That helped him land an assistant’s job at UCLA from 2001 to 2003, then the head coaching gig at Cap Baptist in 2004, where he has been ever since as the most successful and longest tenured coach the school has had.