Most baseball teams weary of travel are happy to get back to the comforts of home.
For the Peninsula Oilers, perhaps an upcoming road trip is just what they need.
The Oilers capped a six-game homestand to open the 2017 season Tuesday evening with a 4-0 loss to the Mat-Su Miners at Coral Seymour Memorial Park, and will hit the road for a seven-game trip starting Thursday.
The loss leaves the Oilers at 1-5 to start the year, but head coach Jim Dietz is not letting it concern him or his players.
“(The Miners) are by far the best team in the league, but we’re going to be fine,” Dietz said. “Now we get to see two different clubs on the road.
“I just know we’re going to be in the playoffs.”
The Oilers travel to Mulcahy Stadium for a three-game series with the Anchorage Bucs starting Thursday at 7 p.m., then play the Chugiak Chinooks in Eagle River for a four-game series.
Tuesday, Spencer Henson led the Miners with superb pitching, going seven scoreless innings with three strikeouts, while giving up three hits and one walk.
However, Henson wasn’t perfect, as he appeared to lose his command on several occasions with four hit batters. The fourth such pitch in the bottom of the seventh resulted in the home plate ump and Miners coach Ben Taylor having a discussion on the field. Henson stayed on the mound to finish the inning, but his day was done from there on out.
“I was kind of erratic and it took a slow one-pitch adjustment for me to get back,” Henson said. “My guys told me to relax and do my thing, the coaches did a good job slowing me down.”
Peninsula starter Devin Hayes went 4 1-3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits and six walks, while striking out three.
The big spark the Miners got came early when Blake Benefield raked a three-run homer over the left field wall with two outs in the first inning.
From there on out, the Oilers worked to get back some of those runs, but each time they put up a charge, the Miners were there to make a defensive play.
“It was one bad pitch for Hayes,” Dietz said. “Going down 3-nothing really takes the wind of out your sails, and now you have to come back.”
Dietz pointed out that two of his starters — centerfielder Thomas Ruddy and first baseman Jeremy Conant — just arrived earlier in the day fresh of the plane. Ruddy, out of Yale University, left at 4:15 a.m. to catch a flight to Alaska, while Conant left 5:45 a.m. Pacific Time to make it up.
After Mat-Su’s Justin Ammons belted out a run-scoring double in the fifth, the Miners loaded the bases on two walks and an intentional walk, but Peninsula reliever Matt Acosta struck out Nick Brooks and Oscar Marchena to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Oilers finally put runners in scoring position on consecutive hit pitches to Caleb Hicks and Ryan Smith. Mikey Hoehner advanced both runners on a one-out bunt, but Ruddy lined out to right fielder Ammons to end the frame.
Oliver Dunn led off the bottom of the sixth for the Oilers with a single, but a laser hit by Raymond Kerr right to Henson resulted in a double play that took Dunn off the bases.
The Oilers threatened again in the bottom of the seventh when Hicks walked and Smith was hit by another pitch to put two on with one out, but Hoehner grounded into a double play to yet again end the inning.
Wasilla product Jake Butcher relieved Henson in the eighth and closed out the final two innings with one-hit scoreless ball, getting one strikeout.
Acosta relieved Hayes in the fifth and kept Mat-Su scoreless in 3 2-3 innings, giving up one hit and two walks while striking out three. Kerr pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Notes — Two former Peninsula Oilers players were drafted by major league teams this week. 2015 Oilers pitcher Cory Abbott out of Loyola Marymount went 67th overall to the Chicago Cubs, and 2016 Oilers pitcher Ryan Lillie out of University of California Riverside went in the fifth round to the Miami Marlins.