It wasn’t a win, but it was a lot better than things looked for the Peninsula Oilers a little under a year ago.
At that time, financial distress put the 42nd season of the Oilers in doubt. But Sunday under blue and sunny skies, a large crowd watched the Oilers complete their 2015 campaign with a 7-4 loss to the powerhouse Mat-Su Miners at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The financial problems sparked a discussion about taking this season off and regrouping, but Michael Tice, president of the Oilers board, said the right decision was made in pushing ahead.
“We got great support from the community and a lot of individual donations,” Tice said. “Sponsorships also were up.
“The only disappointment was we never got a major donation from any of the big businesses.”
Tice said there will be no similar handwringing about a season next year, although he said money is always an issue and the organization can’t count on Mike Baxter continuing to be a volunteer general manager.
“I don’t see anything that could stop us,” he said. “We proved to ourselves we could make it work.”
The Oilers finished at 18-21 in the Alaska Baseball League, five games behind the Anchorage Bucs in the race for the American League title.
Tice said that was a solid finish for a club that was put together three months after all the other ABL squads.
Oilers head coach Kevin Griffin self-effacingly said the only effects of the late start came from the coaching.
“I think it was successful,” Griffin said of the season. “Today was a great crowd. Mike Baxter, Diana Tice and Mike Tice put in a ton of work behind the scenes.
“They had to settle for me as a coach. We chose the team late but it wouldn’t have mattered because I would have picked the guys we had.”
In the National League champion Miners, the Oilers were facing the cream of the Alaska Baseball League. Mat-Su finished 31-10 in the league and had eight of the 19 All-ABL selections announced Sunday. The selections are voted on by the league’s coaches.
The Miners, who host the best-of-three Top of the World Series against the Bucs today at 6 p.m. and Tuesday at 3 p.m. with the if-necessary game immediately to follow, also won two of the five major awards and shared two of the other major awards.
“I could not have asked any more of the guys during the regular season,” said Ben Taylor, who was named the ABL Coach of the Year. “I’m very pleased with what they have done.”
The Miners banged out 16 hits Sunday, and just two batters into the sixth inning every starter in the lineup had a base hit.
Tanner Nishioka, who shared the Silver Slugger with Stephan Trosclair of the Bucs, celebrated the honor with a home run that led to a 2-for-4 day with three RBIs.
Brick Paskiewicz, the Player of the Year and the Top Prospect along with Connor Menez of the Chinooks, was 3 for 5.
Also for the Miners, Alex Caruso had three hits, Matt Diorio had two hits and two runs and Connor Wanhanen had two hits.
Despite the hit parade, the Oilers were able to hang in the game, cutting the gap to 5-2 in the fifth and 7-4 after seven. Peninsula loaded the bases with two away in the ninth, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Zebastian Valenzuela got the win, Caleb McCann got the save and Matt Allen took the loss for the Oilers.
“They didn’t quit playing,” Griffin said of his club. “They were trying to win a game like they do every night.”
Alex Seifert, whose Gold Glove was the lone major award won by the Oilers, led the team with two runs and two hits. JD Arrowood added three RBIs.
Griffin said Seifert’s work at third base, second base and in left field stood out, with a spectacular play coming nearly every game.
Pitcher Paul Lujan and shortstop Jordan Washam were the Oilers on the All-ABL team.
“They deserve it,” Griffin said. “They’re a couple of guys who put in the work all year. They both have bright futures.”
Sean Michel also made history Sunday by appearing on the mound for the 25th time in league play this season, breaking the team record for most appearances.
Lujan and Michel are graduated from college and still looking for an opportunity to play more baseball.
“They deserve it,” Griffin said. “Somebody should give them a chance.”
Griffin also said he and his staff would be interested in returning if given the chance.
“It was a good time,” Griffin said. “I met a lot of good guys, and it’s a good league and a fun league.”
Coach of the Year — Ben Taylor, Miners.
Player of the Year — Brick Paskiewicz, Miners.
Top Prospect — Brick Paskiewicz, Miners; Connor Menez, Chinooks.
Gold Glove — Alex Seifert, Oilers.
Silver Slugger — Tanner Nishioka, Miners; Stephan Trosclair, Bucs.
All-ABL team — Matt Diorio, DH, Miners; Tanner Nishioka, 1B, Miners; Stephan Trosclair, 2B, Bucs; Jordan Washam, SS, Oilers; Adalberto Carrillo, 3B, Pilots; Renae Martinez, C, Panners; Tanner Nishioka, utility, Miners; Brick Paskiewicz, OF, Miners; Alex Caruso, OF, Miners; Luke Hamblin, OF, Pilots; Eli Morgan, starting pitcher, Miners; Will Hibbs, starting pitcher, Pilots; Calvin LeBrun, starting pitcher, Miners; Drew Jacobs, starting pitcher, Pilots; Conner Menez, starting pitcher, Chinooks; Braxton Wilks, starting pitcher, Chinooks; Brick Paskiewicz, relief pitcher, Miners; Paul Lujan, relief pitcher, Oilers; Jim Voyles, relief pitcher, Bucs.
Miners 7, Oilers 4
Miners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Crso cf 5 1 3 2 Rhm rf 4 0 0 0
Wlfe ss 5 0 1 0 Wshm ss 3 0 1 0
Pkcz rf 5 1 3 0 Rvra ss 2 0 0 0
Drio c 5 2 2 1 Schz dh 4 0 0 0
Nhka 1b 4 1 2 3 Diaz c 3 0 0 0
Smns 1b 1 0 0 0 Flks cf 3 2 1 0
Ngrd 3b 5 0 1 0 Sfrt 3b 4 2 2 0
Whn lf 4 1 2 1 Arwd 1b 3 0 1 3
Vzco dh 4 1 1 0 Glsy 2b 4 0 1 0
Zlnr dh 1 0 0 0 Wlsn lf 4 0 0 0
Wod 2b 3 0 1 0 —- — — — —
Totals 42 7 16 7 Totals 34 4 6 3
Mat-Su 100 311 100 —7
Peninsula 000 020 200 —4
2B — Wolfe, Wanhanen, Washam, Seifert, Arrowood. HR — Nishioka. SF — Arrowood. SB — Paskiewicz 2, Wanhanen 3, Diaz, Fowlkes, Seifert. E — Nygaard, Wood. LOB — Miners 10, Oilers 7.
IP H R ER BB SO
Valenzuela, W 6 5 4 4 1 5
Hood 2 2-3 0 0 0 1 2
McCann, S 1-3 1 0 0 1 0
Allen, L 5 9 5 5 1 3
VanStone 1 3 1 1 0 1
Ennis 1 3 1 1 0 0
Michel 1 1 0 0 0 1
Lujan 1 0 0 0 1 0
PB — Diorio 2, Diaz.