MULCAHY STADIUM – Going on the road can have its perks, too. And for a Goldpanner pitching staff, getting away from Growden Park might have been the best thing that could have happened all season. Fairbanks held its opponent under three for the fifth straight league game on the current road trip to cruise to a 9-1 win.
A day after both Russell Harmening and Chasen Ford put together their best outings of the summer, Jace Puckett followed suit with a near flawless start to beat the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. Puckett went five innings and surrendered just three baserunners – two of which he picked off.
The nifty left-hander fooled a pair of Glacier Pilots in the first inning when caught both Justin Protacio and Kevin Viers with his move to first base. Protacio reached on a walk, while Viers singled with two outs and the bases empty. And neither looked comfortable trying to get a jump against Puckett, who settled down after erasing the two baserunners.
He didn’t go deep into the game, but five innings of one-hit ball was plenty to earn Puckett his team-leading fifth win of the season. He walked one more Pilot in the second before retiring every other batter he faced, with the exception of when Clayton Taylor reached on an error in the fifth. But Puckett pitched right around the misplay from his defense.
Meanwhile, the Goldpanners struggled with the bats after a resounding start to the game by Brandon Caruso. The ‘Panner left fielder led off the game with his first home run of the season when he lined a ball just over the fence in left. But the fast start didn’t amount to much else early. Anchorage’s starter Dylan Nelson retired the next 14 batters he faced.
It was Scott Hurst who finally broke up Nelson’s run when he worked a seven-pitch walk in the top of the fifth. And things quickly came undone for Nelson after that. Tyler Mildenberg tripled to deep center to score Hurst on the very next pitch and then Eric Hutting homered on the following Nelson offering to make it 4-0 Fairbanks, just like that. Three pitches, three baserunners, three runs.
After the breakthrough with two outs in the fifth, the Goldpanners pulled away when Vahn Bozoian sent a home run well onto the football field beyond left field at The Mulc. If there was ever a time Bozoian had a chance to hit the Curling Club in Fairbanks, this would have been it. Unfortunately, Growden Park was 360 miles North, but it didn’t stop the ‘Panner DH from admiring his no-doubter that made it 6-0.
Luke Barker came in to pitch the sixth and seventh and recorded four strikeouts. Barker had his nasty split-finger working and the Pilots didn’t have much of a chance. His two shutout innings ran the Fairbanks streak of consecutive shutout innings to 13. Anchorage had also yet to advance a man as far as third base.
The Pilots finally did score in the eighth to the delight of their rather large crowd celebrating “Fan Appreciation Night.” Torgen Soderlund allowed the RBI single, but finished up the last two innings to complete his second ballgame in as many days.
Tyler Mildenberg singled in the ninth and scored on Eric Hutting’s second blast of the evening. The eight and nine spots in the Goldpanners’ lineup were productive once again. Mildenberg collected three hits, while Hutting launched a pair of two-run homers.
With the Bucs idle on Wednesday night, the Goldpanners picked up another half game in the American League standings and took another step toward clinching a spot in the ABL Championship against the Mat-Su Miners. Fairbanks travels to Kenai for a five-game set with the Oilers and have the chance to leave with the American League crown if things go well.