Dazzling pitching lifted the Peninsula Oilers to a doubleheader sweep over the Anchorage Glacier Pilots Friday evening at Coral Seymour Memorial Ballpark.
Just in time for the playoffs.
The Oilers got great relief pitching in game one to start the evening with a 2-1 win, then took advantage of a couple Pilots miscues to score four times in the second inning of game two to back a great outing by Tevin Murray and win 5-1.
With less than a week before the Alaska Baseball League postseason gets underway, the Oilers are looking to get a lift from their power arms to match the arms of the team they’re likely to face in the first round, the Anchorage Bucs.
In their last 15 games dating back to July 7, the Bucs have suffocated their opponents by holding them to an average 1.3 runs a game, and seven of those 15 games have been Bucs shutouts. The team as a whole has averaged a 2.33 ERA this summer.
Thursday against the league-leading Mat-Su Miners, the Bucs stifled their foes to just two hits in a shutout performance.
Right now, the Oilers (22-20) sit third in the ABL standings, 3 1/2 games back of the first-place Miners (26-17) and two behind the Bucs (24-18). The top four teams move on to the postseason, and as the third seed, the Oilers would match up with the second-seeded Bucs.
“The Bucs pitching staff is good, they throw really hard,” said Oilers lefty Murray. “But it’s nothing we’re not accustomed to.”
Murray started Friday’s late game and pitched a one-run, three-hit gem. Murray retired seven Pilots via strikeout and walked just two to record the win, his first of the summer.
Murray credited a consistent fastball early in each at-bat that helped him, but said his slider was finishing the job well. That kind of pitching can go a long way in the postseason.
“The slider was wipeout tonight,” he said. “I feel like it gives us some momentum, and I think the defense is the key to our game.”
Bret Ricklefs finished the night with a hitless inning of relief, whiffing one and walking one in the seventh. Overall, the Oilers held the Pilots to just three hits, while the Peninsula offense banged out 11 hits.
Ryan Koch continued his hot-hitting of late with a 2-for-3 day with two RBIs, and Evan Berkey went 2 for 2 with a run.
Oilers head coach Kyle Brown said Murray’s zip was well received for a clubhouse that has needed the pitching support.
“Tevin was lights out,” Brown said. “I think at one point he had five strikeouts in a row, and he was pounding the strike zone, and pitching with an attitude. He looked crisp from the get go.”
Brown said that the offense, which has suffered through several anemic games in recent weeks on the road, seemed to hit better as well.
“We’ve left a lot of guys on base,” he said. “We’ve got to get the job done, and I hope our guys can catch fire at the end here.”
Koch got the scoring started with a sac fly in the first inning that brought in Zach Zalesky, who reached with a leadoff walk.
The four-run second began with a Calvin Farris double that just fell fair along the left field line and a single by Paul Kunst to put Farris at third.
After a John Mackay single scored a run, the big mistake for the Pilots came on a grounder by Grant Wood that bounced off the glove of Pilots third baseman Garrett Kocis and into foul territory, allowing Wood to reach and two runs to score for a 4-0 Oilers lead.
An RBI single by Koch continued the offensive onslaught, and it took a flyout by Brian Leonhardt to end the frame with the home team up 5-0.
Jake Cosgrove ruined the shutout for the Oilers by lining an RBI single to right field in the sixth.
After a failed double play got the second out of the frame, Berkey field a grounder on a hop by Presno to end the inning on an impressive play.
Zalesky got a run back in the bottom of the inning with a loud RBI triple that landed at the right field warning track. Zalesky later scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-1.
In the first game of the day, Bryan Woo, Matt Amrhein and Calvin Farris combined for a one-run outing on the mound. Woo started and was tagged with a run on four hits and three walks in 3 1/3 frames, while Amrhein and Farris together kept the Pilots scoreless in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Amrhein gave up one hit in 2 2/3 frames with two strikeouts to get the win, and Farris earned the save with a one-hit scoreless frame.
The Oilers did their damage in the bottom of the third, starting with a leadoff single by Bryce Begell, who then reached third on a wild pitch and fielder’s choice by Zalesky.
Ryan Koch brought Begell in on an RBI groundout to open the scoring, and Brian Leonhardt followed with a single to make it 2-0.
Anchorage immediately responded in the top of the fourth, as the Pilots got to Woo by loading the bases with two walks and a single. Amrhein took over for Woo, allowing a run on Elliott Curtis’ fielder’s choice knock, but escaping with a strikeout of Jordan Arruda.