Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Kenai Peninsula Oilers Brian Ruhm slides back into first base Thursday, July 30, 2015, at Coral Seymour Park in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Kenai Peninsula Oilers Brian Ruhm slides back into first base Thursday, July 30, 2015, at Coral Seymour Park in Kenai, Alaska.

Oilers sweep Panners

The days are dwindling away, but the Peninsula Oilers are not, evidenced by a doubleheader sweep of the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks on Thursday evening at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.

The Oilers capped an opening 3-1 seven-inning win with a 2-1 victory to improve to 18-19 in the Alaska Baseball American League, four games behind the already-crowned Anchorage Bucs, and 20-24 overall.

After suffering through a 3-13 streak, the Oilers have now won three in a row, starting with Wednesday night’s walk-off victory over the Panners.

“We’ve hit well against this team before, it’s the same team we scored 18 runs against,” said Oilers hitting coach Eli Silverman, referring to the Oilers 18-4 win over Fairbanks on July 2. “We’ve got the ball in the air, it’s just a matter of getting underneath it or hitting it right at somebody. Some games we’ve scored a lot of runs, some we haven’t.”

With Oilers head coach Kevin Griffin suspended for both of Thursday’s games for his role in Wednesday’s game, in which he was ejected for arguing, Silverman and pitching coach Brian Daly headed up Thursday’s effort. Silverman said the team’s prior string of losses could be due to the team trying to do too much with the AL pennant in sight, which can backfire on players not as accustomed to using a wood bat.

“The first time you start using a wood bat, lot of guys muscle up and try to squeeze the bat, that slows down their swing,” Silverman said. “We tell them to just put the ball in play, and I think a lot of them have realized, if you make contact with a wooden bat, it’ll go.”

Thursday night, the hits were there. Starting catcher Brent Diaz sparked the Oilers with a home run to open the scoring in the bottom of the second frame of the seven-inning opener. Diaz ended the night a combined 3 for 4 with a homer and a double, and batted in three runs in the first game.

“Kenai has been great to us, and the least we can do is play hard for these people that come out and support us,” Diaz said.

Diaz crushed his homer on a two-strike count, and said it was an inside fastball that did the trick.

“I saw the ball and put a good swing on it, and the rest takes care of itself,” Diaz said.

Diaz later added a sacrifice fly in the third inning for a 2-0 Oilers lead.

James Fowlkes also hit well Thursday, notching a pair of triples — one in each game — to push his summer total to five, one behind the Oilers team record that teammate Brian Ruhm tied Wednesday night.

Fowlkes hit his first triple deep to center field in the bottom of the fourth, which was quelled with a double play. In the second game, Fowlkes followed up a leadoff double by Diaz in the fourth inning with another triple to center field, bringing in Diaz to score.

“I knew it was a situation where I needed to get the ball up over the infield,” Diaz said about his double. “I looked for a pitch that I liked and swung at it.”

Cory Abbott, in his last start of the summer for the Oilers, picked up the win in the first game, pitching five innings with an unearned run and four hits and just one walk. With Diaz catching Abbott’s pitches, it provided enough defense to stall the Panners.

“We talked about giving it everything we got,” Diaz said. “(Abbott) just pitches to contact, he’s not a big strikeout guy, but he’s great. He keeps the ball down, and we’re able to get some good groundballs and let our defense do the rest.”

In the second game, Paul Lujan picked up his eighth save of the season, and his second in one day.

“I’m going on five days now, I’m a little exhausted,” Lujan said with a laugh. “When I get an opportunity to come out and do my job, I’m thankful.”

With two saves in one day, and four out of five days of pitching, Lujan is ready for an opportunity to be noticed. Lujan said he is headed off to Wichita, Kansas, for the NBC World Series, where he will pitch for the Arvada Colts (Colorado) of the Rocky Mountain Baseball League. The tournament starts Tuesday, just in time for Lujan to finish off his summer stint with the Oilers.

“Now the pressure’s off of us, the tension’s out of the clubhouse, and we’re having a lot of fun with a good bunch of guys,” Lujan said.

Cameron Stanton (3-2) earned the win in the second game, pitching five innings of two-hit ball and giving up one run and one walk, while getting three strikeouts.

The Oilers opened the scoring in the third inning, starting with a line drive to left field by hometown product Hector Rivera. Rivera then stole second, and Jimmy Galusky was given a walk to load the bases. Alex Seifert sent a single through the middle to score Billy Wilson, but Rivera was called out at home. Mark Sanchez flied out to right field to end the inning with a 1-0 lead.

“We’ve had a lot of situations going on with the umpires, and our coaches have been great telling us to keep playing the game hard and keep respecting the game, and that’s what we try to do,” Diaz said, referring to several close calls by the umpires throughout the evening. “I don’t play for myself, I don’t play for individual status. I play to help the team win.”

One frame later, Diaz opened with a double that set him up to score on Fowlkes’ triple.

Fairbanks responded, however, with a home run by Andrew Carrillo to close the gap to 2-1, but could manage nothing else from there, as Sean Michel and Paul Lujan repeated their closing act on the mound from the first game to seal the doubleheader sweep.

NOTES: Oilers right-handed pitcher David Diaz was signed Thursday morning by the Rockford (Illinois) Aviators of the Frontier League. Diaz, a recent graduate out of Louisiana State University-Shreveport, is expected to start Tuesday, with a guaranteed month to develop.

Thursday

First game

Oilers 3, Goldpanners 1

Panners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI

Cslt cf 3 0 1 0 Sfrt lf 3 0 0 0

Jns 3b 3 0 1 0 Ruhm rf 2 2 0 0

Mtnz c 3 0 0 0 Snhz dh 2 0 1 0

Obn rf 3 0 0 0 Diaz c 2 1 2 3

Crlo ss 3 0 1 0 Bke 3b 3 0 0 0

Rbts 2b 3 0 1 0 Wsm 2b 3 0 1 0

Bush 1b 3 0 0 0 Fwks cf 3 0 1 0

Bynm lf 3 0 0 0 Arwd 1b 2 0 0 0

Hrn dh 1 1 0 0 Glky ss 3 0 0 0

Totals 25 1 4 0 Totals 23 3 5 3

Panners 000 010 0 —1

Oilers 011 010 x —3

HR — Diaz (1). SB — Cassolato (2), Ruhm (3). E — Cassolato (2), Jones (7), Roberts (2), Washam 2 (9), Galusky (6). LOB — Panners 4, Oilers 6.

IP H R ER BB SO

Panners

Pendergast 4.2 5 3 2 3 2

Schreiber 1.1 0 0 0 0 1

Oilers

Abbott 5.0 4 1 0 1 3

Michel 1.0 0 0 0 0 0

Lujan 1.0 0 0 0 0 0

WP — Abbott (4).

T — 1:41.

Second game

Oilers 2, Panners 1

Panners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI

Cslo cf 3 0 0 0 Sfrt 3b 3 0 1 1

Hrn 2b 2 0 0 0 Rhm 1b 3 0 1 0

OBn 1b 3 0 1 0 Schz c 3 0 0 0

Bsh dh 3 0 0 0 Diaz dh 2 1 1 0

Rbts ss 2 0 0 0 Bke ss 1 0 0 0

Crlo 3b 3 1 2 1 Flks cf 3 0 1 1

Bnm rf 3 0 0 0 Wlsn rf 1 1 0 0

Wxn c 2 0 0 0 Rvra lf 1 0 1 0

Mtnz c 0 0 0 0 Gsky 2b 1 0 0 0

Smrs lf 2 0 0 0 —- — — — —

Jns 3b 0 0 0 0 —- — — — —

Totals 23 1 3 1 Totals 18 2 5 2

Fairbanks 000 010 0 —1

Peninsula 001 100 X —2

2B — Diaz. 3B — Fowlkes. HR — Carrillo. S — Boeke 2. SB — Rivera 2. CS — Diaz. LOB — Panners 3, Oilers 5. DP — Panners 1, Oilers 1.

IP H R ER BB SO

Panners

Janssen, L 3 2-3 4 2 2 1 1

Simmons 2 1-3 1 0 0 3 0

Oilers

Stanton, W 5 2 1 1 1 3

Michel 1 0 0 0 0 1

Lujan, S 1 1 0 0 1 1

HBP — by Janssen (Wilson). T — 1:29.

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