CORAL SEYMOUR MEMORIAL FIELD – The Goldpanners entered their final game with Kenai knowing that they had not only wrapped up a spot in the ABL Championship, but also home field for the three-game series. Except the ‘Panners won’t return to Growden Memorial Park this season. Finances and complications with flights to Wichita will bring the “Top of the World” Series to Anchorage, where Fairbanks hosts at the neutral site.
But that didn’t stop the ‘Panner bats from coming to play. And the Goldpanners beat the Oilers for the eighth time this season with a 13-10 win.
Joel Belk got the start but didn’t go deep into the game to retain the possibility of him throwing in the championship series with Mat-Su. Belk went just 2.2 innings and allowed a pair of hits without surrendering an earned run. Unfortunately, he did give up two unearned runs before giving the ball over to Chasen Ford.
Peninsula failed to hold onto a pair of one-run leads in the first four innings. The Oilers struck first in the second when Ryan Clark bobbled a ground ball with two outs and a man on third. The sharply hit ball took an in-between hop on the third baseman and gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead.
Jacob Hayes singled home Cody Nulph in the top of the third after Nulph reached with a push bunt down the first base line. But the ‘Panners couldn’t get any more after Oilers starter Scott Torrey caught the ‘Panners’ leading basestealer going early from first.
Kenai went back ahead in the third when a Belk error on a sacrifice attempt set up an Alex Rubanowitz sac fly. The Oilers gave it right back when Torrey botched a bunt himself. Hunter Villanueva wound up all the way at third when the Oilers finally tracked down the errant throw. Scott Hurst didn’t waste any time singling Villanueva home with a line drive through the middle.
Fairbanks got three in the fifth when it loaded the bases with no outs after Jacob Hayes beat out his sacrifice bunt attempt. It was the third hit of the afternoon for the do-it-all right fielder. Vahn Bozoian singled home two runs immediately after and Villanueva added an RBI single two batters later.
Ford got the ‘Panners through five with a 5-4 lead before his side put together another monster inning to seal his fifth win of the summer.
Eric Hutting led off an eight-run sixth with his fourth home run of the season. The Goldpanners pounded out six hits thereafter, highlighted by a three-run shot off the bat of Tanner Pinkston. Pinkston’s fourth long ball of the year, and first since his walk-off in the home finale, made it 11-4. Fairbanks tacked on two more before it was all over.
Andrew Buehler completed the last four innings in relief to notch the save. Buehler was hit for two runs in the sixth, but held the Oilers at bay otherwise until the ninth when Peninsula added some meaningless scoring. The ‘Panners’ pitching struck out just two batters all afternoon, but also walked just one. They will play one more game against the Bucs tomorrow before beginning a three-game set for the ABL Championship with the Miners Tuesday.