Peninsula Oilers catcher Brock Wirthgen congratulates pitcher Mose Hayes after a victory over the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Oilers catcher Brock Wirthgen congratulates pitcher Mose Hayes after a victory over the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tuesday: Oilers topple Miners in home opener in dramatic fashion

Homer’s Hayes starts 4th year with club by winning sudden-death game

The Peninsula Oilers opened up their home slate in their 50th anniversary season with a 2-1 sudden-death victory over the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday in Alaska Baseball League play at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.

The Miners fall to 4-2 in the league, while the Oilers are 2-3. Peninsula is 1-2 against Mat-Su in league play.

The teams have a five-game series at Seymour Park, with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday games all at 6 p.m.

A solid opening-night crowd got an exciting reintroduction to the extra-inning rules of the ABL.

If a game is tied after nine innings, another regular inning is played. If the game is still tied, the home team chooses to play offense or defense in the sudden-death inning.

A runner is put on first base and if the offensive team scores, it wins. If the defense holds, that team wins.

With both teams having managed just one run each in 10 innings of play with a cold wind blowing in from the outfield, Oilers head coach Larry McCann chose to be the defensive team.

It didn’t hurt that McCann had Mose Hayes on the mound, the 2020 Homer High School graduate back for his fourth year with the squad.

Hayes had a sudden-death victory over the Miners last season in a doubleheader at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer in which the Oilers were the home team.

“There’s a little bit of nerves, but this place feels like home now,” said Hayes, who also pitched at Seymour Park for the American Legion Post 20 Twins. “I’ve pitched so much here it comes with a bit of comfortability.”

Hayes went 7-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 70 1-3 innings pitched for Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, this season. Hayes has another year of eligibility left for Faulkner.

After throwing so many college innings, the Oilers gave Hayes the season-opening road trip off. He said he hadn’t thrown off a mound in a month before doing a bullpen at Homer High School with his father, Mike Hayes, five days ago.

After meeting his team for the first time before the game, Hayes ended up pitching six scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.

“I was expecting like an inning or two,” he said. “I really didn’t expect that, but it felt good. I think you could definitely tell I was a little gassed.”

The sudden-death inning did not start well for Hayes, as his first pitch was a wild one that put pinch runner Ryker Schow on second base.

“We were going to try and make him pop up the bunt, or mess up the bunt, on the first pitch,” Hayes said of Mat-Su’s Logan Vaughan. “Then I just threw it away.

“It was like, ‘Oh, well. We planned all that for nothing. Here we are.’”

Vaughan then lofted a ball to center field and Schow initially looked to have tagged up and made it to third with one out.

When the Oilers first appealed the tag at second, nothing happened because Hayes had not stepped back on the rubber and to put the ball back in play. Once Hayes did that and threw to second, Schow was called out. Kellen Strohmeyer then struck out to end the game.

Miners head coach Tyler LeBrun said it was a frustrating call in such a tight, extra-inning game.

“I didn’t think he left early, and I thought I had a pretty good line when I was in the dugout,” LeBrun said. “I didn’t think he left early, but (the umpire) obviously thought he did, and it changed the complexion of the game.”

Hayes and McCann said they were not watching the tag. McCann said he was watching the throw, which would probably have been in time but was not handled cleanly by third baseman Ty Thomas.

“I gotta be honest with you, I wasn’t watching,” Hayes said. “I thought we were kind of wasting time when they decided to appeal because I’ve never gotten that call before, even if I did think he left early.

“But this was the one time, I guess.”

Anybody watching batting practice before the game knew this would be a tough day to score runs.

Peninsula starter Eddie Leon went five innings and gave up an unearned run on three hits. The run came in the second when Strohmeyer was on third and Drake Kerr drew a throw to second by stealing the base.

“He threw a lot of ground balls early on and we made all the plays,” McCann said of Leon. “That’s what it takes, other than when we messed that one play up, which gave them the run.”

Miners starter Ryan Peterson gave up a run on two hits in five innings, while Luke Smith gave up no runs and two hits in 3 1-3 innings, and Drew Koenen pitched a hitless and scoreless 1 2-3 innings.

“It was a dogfight,” LeBrun said. “Tip my cap to the Oilers. Their guys threw extremely well.

“Our guys threw extremely well too. It was just a good, good baseball game.”

The Miners also made a dandy defensive play in the first inning, when Strohmeyer hit first baseman Nick Ferri from right field, and Ferri cut down Colin Robson at the plate trying to score after a double by Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis.

In the fourth, Robson would find a more leisurely path home, crushing a home run from the left side of the plate right into the teeth of the wind coming from right field.

“We took BP and I hit one off the wall,” Robson said. “I was like, ‘Yeah. There’s no way I’m going to get one out today. I need to go for line drives up the middle.’

“That’s what I was doing. I caught a fastball out front and it just got over.”

This was Robson’s second home run.

“He’s not really a physical-looking kid, but he had a ball the other day in the showcase where he almost undressed the second baseman. He just smoked it.

“I mean, he’s got some bat speed.”

Robson said it was a moment he won’t soon forget.

“This was the home opener, so to do it in front of the home crowd was awesome,” he said.

Mat-Su Miners head coach Tyler LeBrun argues with an umpire after it was ruled a Mat-Su runner did not tag up in the sudden-death inning against the Peninsula Oilers on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Mat-Su Miners head coach Tyler LeBrun argues with an umpire after it was ruled a Mat-Su runner did not tag up in the sudden-death inning against the Peninsula Oilers on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Oilers shortstop Petey Soto forces out Christian Perez of the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Oilers shortstop Petey Soto forces out Christian Perez of the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Oilers fans play tag the mascot with Scoop on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula Oilers fans play tag the mascot with Scoop on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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