Spark and resilience from West Virginia University gave the Peninsula Oilers a 4-2 Alaska Baseball League victory over the Chugiak Chinooks on Sunday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
The spark came from Oilers leadoff hitter and Mountaineers outfielder Darius Hill, who finished 4 for 5 with a run and an RBI and played a role in every run the home team scored.
Hill’s energy stood out on a day game after a night doubleheader. Each squad had three errors Sunday.
“He brings it every single day,” Oilers head coach Brian Daly said of Hill.
The resilience came from Oilers starter and Mountaineers hurler Cody Wood, who overcame a rough outing Friday against these same Chinooks and more rough times early Sunday to earn the win.
“I know him pretty well and I’ve never seen him rattled,” Hill said of his college teammate. “I knew when they hit him around a bit in the first inning, he would bounce back.”
The win moves the Oilers to 9-9 in the ABL, just two behind the league-leading Mat-Su Miners. The Chinooks, at 10-12, are three back and in last place in the tight, five-team pack that makes up the ABL. The Oilers take the series against the Chinooks 3-2 and finish 4-4 on their homestand.
Peninsula can keep gaining on the league leaders when they start a four-day, five-game road trip tonight at 7 p.m. against the Miners. The Oilers return home Saturday for a 5 p.m. doubleheader against the Miners.
Friday against the Chinooks, Wood came on in relief and his first pitch was parked behind the left-field wall by Ethan Wisker. After failing to retire the next two batters, he was lifted.
Thus, when two of the first three batters got hits against Wood on Sunday, and the fourth — Tim Millard — crushed a ball to left center that went down as a sacrifice fly, it was easy to wonder if Chugiak had Wood’s number.
“I kept leaving the ball up,” Wood said. “I knew what I was doing wrong. I just had to get the ball down at the knees.”
After the first inning, Wood would not give up another earned run thanks to an effective change-up and a slider he was able to throw for strikes. He pitched six innings and gave up two runs total, stranding eight Chinooks runners.
“He’s mentally tough,” Daly said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. That’s what you need as a starting pitcher, especially at this level.”
With Wood deftly dodging disaster on the mound, it was left to the Hill-led offense to generate some runs.
In the first, Hill doubled and scored on a Brody Wofford single for a 1-all game against Chinooks starter and loser Brody Harris.
In the fifth, Alex Seifert led off by reaching on a strikeout and wild pitch. After Hill got Seifert to second on a bunt single, Trey Dawson tied the game at 2 when he reached on an error.
The Oilers would load the bases with nobody out in the fifth and fail to score, but the local nine came right back in the sixth with the winning tallies.
With one away, Ryan Smith reached on an error and Seifert put runners at the corners with a hit-and-run single.
Hill then singled to score Smith, and got caught in a rundown between first and second. As he continued to elude the tag, Seifert dashed for home and slid in safely ahead of the throw for a 4-2 game.
Hill said he prides himself on giving effort on days like Sunday, when it’s easy to let the previous day’s doubleheader sap energy.
“I like to stay on an even keel,” he said. “It really helps.
“I try to come to the field every day and do whatever I can to help my team win.”
During the game, it was announced that former Oilers player Stephen Piscotty hit a grand slam Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Piscotty’s brother, Austin, kept his family’s roll going with three scoreless innings of relief to collect the save.
Daly said new catcher Jordan Frese did a great job behind the plate and outfielder Brian Ruhm is set to return any day now from injury. With a fresh bullpen — except for Piscotty — set for the Miners today, Daly said the pieces are in place for a successful road trip.
Oilers 4, Chinooks 2
Chinooks AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Bss 2b 4 0 0 0 Hll cf 5 1 4 1
Mlrd lf 5 1 2 0 Dwsn ss 5 0 2 0
Vnsu rf 3 0 2 0 Wfrd lf 4 0 2 1
Mlrd 3b 3 0 0 1 Wng 1b 4 0 0 0
Wskr 1b 4 1 0 0 Cprn 2b 4 0 0 0
Sfrd ss 3 0 1 0 Wsm dh 4 0 1 0
Snfd dh 3 0 0 0 Frse c 4 0 0 0
Hll c 4 0 0 0 Sth rf 4 1 0 0
Plsn cf 4 0 1 0 Sfrt 3b 4 2 1 0
Totals 33 2 6 1
Chugiak 100 100 000 —2
Peninsula 100 012 00X —4
2B — Mallard, Hill. SF — Millard. E — Shackelford, Bass 2, Wang, Dawson, Wood. SB — Popylisen, Dawson, Hill. LOB — Chinooks 9, Oilers 10. DP — Oilers 1.
IP H R ER BB SO
Harris, L 5 1-3 8 4 2 1 8
White 2 2-3 2 0 0 0 1
Wood, W 6 5 2 1 3 1
Piscotty, S 3 1 0 0 0 2