With the bats stuck in neutral, the Peninsula Oilers sputtered to another one-run loss Saturday night at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, dropping a 3-2 contest to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks.
The Oilers fell to 11-6 overall, still first in the Alaska Baseball League, with the rubber match of the five-game series slated for today at 2 p.m. The Oilers then hit the road for a seven-game trip.
Between the two losses Friday and Saturday, the Oilers combined for four runs on nine hits, something that Saturday’s starting pitcher Tevin Murray said had to change.
“It’d be nice to get to that 12th win, but we’ve got to put together some better hits,” Murray said. “We’ll find it, we’ll figure it out eventually.”
Murray, a Rutgers University sophomore, dominated the opening 5 1-3 frames with shutout pitching, giving up two hits and notching a season-high eight strikeouts before making his exit.
“It was just about attacking with the fastball,” Murray said of his strong outing. “I went to the breaking ball and the changeup later, but getting that fastball in was working for me.”
The lefty continued a season-long trend for the Oilers, who lead the league in team ERA with a consistent rotation. Murray lowered his ERA to a minuscule 0.59, second-best among Oilers starters. Six of the eight Peninsula pitchers that have made a start this summer own an ERA below 2.53.
However, the offense has gone cold lately.
In a similar trend to Friday’s loss, the Oilers offense dried up in the late innings. The Chinooks retired 11 of 12 Oilers batters in a span between the fifth and eighth innings, including a string of five consecutive strikeouts, and 14 of their last 17 total to end the game.
Ryan Koch got the night started with a blast by pulling a two-out home run over the left field wall, his league-leading fourth homer of the summer. No other player in the ABL has one.
But the early power off Koch’s bat would be the last Peninsula run until the bottom of the ninth, when Michael Yourg reached on an RBI infield single with two outs.
In between, the Oilers failed to move runners around.
Matthew Kirk raked a double to right field in the bottom of the fifth, then advanced to third on a passed ball, but couldn’t be brought in to score.
On defense, Koch added a highlight play in the top of the sixth by gunning down Bailey Collins at second, who was attempting to steal after a leadoff single. The Chinooks had a chance to tie the game later in the frame when a grounder by J Paul Fullerton was bobbled by the Oilers, but the throw home was easily in time to tag Jordan Wharton to preserve the one-run lead.
The Chinooks finally made their move in the top of the seventh by loading the bases with two outs after Calvin Farris hit Luke VanDover with a pitch and Collins tied it on an infield single, and Wharton put the Chinooks ahead with a two-run single straight up the middle.
Chugiak loaded the bases again in the top of the eighth with two outs with a pair of hits and a walk, but Tre Brown whiffed VanDover to end the threat.
Farris took the loss on the mound for the Oilers with three runs given up on five hits in 1 2/3 innings. Farris struck out three and walked none. Brown gave up two his and whiffed two in one frame, and Brian Leonhardt struck out two in the ninth.
River Carbone came on in the bottom of the ninth for the Chinooks but gave up a run on Yourg’s single. Carbone still held on for the save, his first of the summer for Chugiak.