Fairbanks’ NBC World Series Comes to an End

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LAWRENCE-DUMONT STADIUM – The Goldpanners met a familiar foe Wednesday evening. And after sweeping three games at Growden Memorial Park back in June, the Goldpanners couldn’t beat the Waves a fourth time. Oceanside played its best game when it mattered most. And Fairbanks’ NBC World Series came to an end Wednesday night after a 4-3 loss.

The ‘Panners fell victim to the double play in the game’s biggest spots. Three twin-killings ended rallies in the third, fifth and seventh and helped Bob Kraft to a complete game win for Oceanside. Kraft struck out just two batters, but also walked only one.

DSCN9996Oceanside struck first in the first when Andrew McWilliam lined an RBI single down the first base line. The hit left men on the corners, but Joel Belk struck out the next two batters to limit the damage.

Belk’s outing wasn’t like his previous against the Waves at Growden Park when the Azusa Pacific right-hander struck out a season-high 10. But he didn’t pitch poorly either, as hit night was cut short by an error that preceded a two-out rally for Oceanside.

That came in the third when Ryan Clark backed up for the second hop on a ground ball down the line. Clark bobbled the ball, which gave the batter time to beat his throw across the diamond. The error loomed large after terrific defense from Clark all tournament leading up to the play. Three hits followed and Nolan Barraza’s two-run double made it 3-0.

The ‘Panners responded with a run in each of the next two innings. Hunter Villanueva knocked a two-out single into center to score Jacob Hayes in the fourth and Scott Hurst scored Ryan Clark with an RBI single of his own in the fifth. Hurst finished with three hits on the night, but Jacob Hayes grounded into a double play with two men on when Fairbanks threatened to take control of the game in that fifth inning.

DSCN0102Chasen Ford made his first appearance of the World Series with no outs and a man on in the fifth in relief. And he went on to retire the first nine Waves he faced. Ford did not allow a baserunner until the eighth when Oceanside put the first two men on with singles. An unearned run came across when Hunter Villanueva missed a ground ball to his left that skipped into right field. The Waves’ third unearned run of the game made it 4-2.

That gave the ‘Panners one last chance to extend their season in the ninth and Fairbanks nearly put together a big enough rally to send the game into extras. Villanueva and Paulino led off the inning with a reach on error and infield hit, respectively. And then Eric Hutting moved them up with a productive groundout. Ryan Clark’s sacrifice fly left the tying run on second for Scott Hurst. But the Goldpanners’ leading hitter sent a hot shot back to the mound that Bob Kraft stabbed. The Waves’ lefty underhanded to first for his second complete game of the tournament.

The loss ends the Goldpanners’ summer and extends the drought in the NBC World Series. The all-time leaders, with six titles, have not won one the tournament since 2002.

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Goldpanners Move On to Quarterfinals

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LAWRENCE-DUMONT STADIUM – Wire-to-Wire wins usually imply a level of ease for the winning side. The ‘Panners never trailed Monday night against the Arvada Colts, but nothing about the win was easy with the season hanging in the balance. Fairbanks turned a double play to escape a ninth inning jam and hold onto an 8-6 win.

Monday’s final game featured plenty of offense, with the teams combining for 29 hits, and also marked the first error-free game of the tournament’s championship week. A quick start for Fairbanks gave the false illusion that it could be a one-sided game.

DSCN0062The ‘Panners got one in the first when Vahn Bozoian singled home Scott Hurst. Bozoian’s RBI came on the third ‘Panner hit in the first four batters. But Tanner Pinkston bounced into a double play to limit the inning to just one run. The big inning came right after that, though. Cody Nulph and Jacob Hayes collected a pair of huge two-out RBI hits. Nulph’s bases loaded double rattled around in the left field corner to score two runs. Hayes followed with the teams’ first homer run of the tournament. The round-tripper wasn’t of the conventional variety, however. The high fly ball ricocheted off the wall 385 feet from home plate just far enough in front of the right fielder to give Hayes time to sprint around the bases. It didn’t bounce extraordinarily far away from the right fielder, but the fly’s hang time and the vintage hustle from Hayes right out of the box were enough to let him come all the way around.

DSCN0087The big inning gave Mike Benson a 6-0 lead to work with before he even allowed his first baserunner. But the Colts finally generated some much-needed offense with two runs in the third. Humberto Aranda led off the inning with a single that broke up Benson’s perfect start. He came home on a triple, but Benson limited the damage to just two runs with his first of two double play balls on the night.

Three scoreless innings on either side ensued before Arvada finally knocked Benson out of the game. The Pacific Tiger took the ball into the seventh and got two quick outs before walking his first batter. The two-out walk spurred a Colts rally for a pair of runs. Both were charged to Benson but the second came against Andrew Buehler, who allowed the inherited runner to score. The submariner who has worked an awful lot of late recorded a big out by getting Aaron Blair to bounce out to second with two men on.

DSCN0129Fairbanks responded with a pair of runs in its half of the seventh thanks to a two-run hit from Eric Hutting. Hutting’s bouncing ball through the left side plated Tanner Pinkston and Scooter Bynum, who came into run for Vahn Bozoian. And just like that, the ‘Panner lead was back up to four.

Luke Barker came on in the eighth, but couldn’t finish it. He gave up a leadoff double before retiring the next two batters. Then another two-out rally hurt the Goldpanners. Barker surrendered three straight hits after that, which prompted Mike Grahovac to make a move. He went to Miles Chambers for the third straight game in the tournament to get a key late inning out. And Chambers did his job by striking out Arvada’s leadoff hitter.

Chambers stayed on for the ninth and saved his second straight game. After Logan Kiefer lined out hard to Ryan Clark at third, the Colts’ third and fourth hitters singled to put the tying run on base. But Clark picked up a two-hopper, stepped on the third base bag and threw across the diamond for the 5-3 double play. It was the second double play Clark started in the game and gave him all three ninth inning putouts.

Most importantly, it sealed the win for the Goldpanners, who will get a day of rest after getting the last out at about 1 AM. The four remaining unbeaten teams will play Tuesday before the semifinals in the loser’s bracket happens Wednesday. The Goldpanners have drawn an interesting opponent – the San Diego Oceanside Waves, who Fairbanks swept in a three-game series at Growden earlier this year. First pitch of that game has yet to be determined.

Goldpanners Take Care of Bombers

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LAWRENCE-DUMONT STADIUM – With the Goldpanners’ season coming dangerously close to ending how it started with two offensive no-shows in Anchorage a couple months ago, the bats came alive just in time to save the season. Fairbanks scored seven runs in the last three innings to stave off elimination with an 8-3 win over the Sedalia Bombers.

DSCN0098Tanner Pinkston had two hits and RBI’s in the win and eight ‘Panners collected at least one hit. Down 2-1 entering the seventh, Fairbanks put together a four-run inning to take the lead for good. Pinkston started the rally with the first of five straight hits. Mike Wieland singled home the tying run and Kris Paulino tripled to deep right, which put the ‘Panners on top. The offensive breakthrough came in time to get Tylor Megill the win.

Megill put together yet another great outing for the Goldpanners’ staff. The incoming freshman threw seven full innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He struck out two and didn’t walk a batter.

Both of those runs Megill allowed came in the third inning when Sedalia mounted a two-out rally. Megill struck out the first two batters before three straight hits. A trio of singles gave the Bombers a 1-0 lead and then a catcher’s interference call scored the second run. The MINK runner-ups staked its starting pitching, Danny Chambliss, to an early lead.

Chambliss cruised through the first five innings before allowing a run in the sixth on a Scott Hurst triple. And he lasted just two batters into the seventh before being lifted from the game. Both batters he faced in that seventh inning ended up coming around to score.

DSCN0481The Bombers didn’t go away. A scrappy bunch that needed to advance out of the first 16-team bracket last week to get to this stage of the tournament, Sedalia put one run on the board in the eighth. Robert Prieto walked and scored on a sac fly against Miles Chambers. But that was all Chambers allowed in two innings of work.

The Cal State Fullerton product completed the last two innings to earn his first save of the tournament. The ‘Panners made life a little easier on Chambers with three runs in the top of the ninth. Fairbanks staged a two-out rally of its own that started with a hit batter. Three walks followed and Tanner Pinkston knocked in two runs with a single to right. Chambers finished a 1-2-3 ninth to finish the victory.

The win keeps the Goldpanners alive and slates them to take on the winner of the Haysville, Kansas Aviators and the Arvada, Colorado Colts. Monday’s game time will be TBD.

Mustangs Pitching Hands Goldpanners First Loss of World Series

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LAWRENCE-DUMONT STADIUM – After arriving in Wichita and adjusting to the newfound humidity and jetlag in the last day, the ‘Panners opened their NBC World Series on Saturday. Playing in their first morning game of the summer, Fairbanks met the St. Joseph’s Mustangs of the MINK (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) in the first round of the 16-team, double-elimination tournament. And the ‘Panners fell to the team from Missouri by a score of 4-2.

Jace Puckett got his first start since shutting down the Glacier Pilots ten days ago in Anchorage. The Reno, Nevada native arrived in Kansas first after leaving prior to the ABL Championship with teammates Jayson Balades and Ryan Clark. With time to acclimatize and his warm climate background, Puckett seemed like the logical choice for Head Coach Mike Grahovac to start the opener. And he delivered with 6.1 quality innings.

DSCN0200Puckett looked sharp in the first inning, jumping out to an 0-2 count on the first three hitters. Fairbanks wasn’t hurt on the scoreboard in the first, but it lost its leadoff man when Brandon Caruso collided with Scott Hurst on a shallow fly ball in the gap. Caruso stayed in the game before eventually departing after two innings with a right thigh/knee injury. The substitution led to a chain reaction of position changes after Jacob Hayes shifted to left, Kris Paulino moved out to right and Tyler MiIdenberg to second, making room for Ryan Clark to take Caruso’s spot in the lineup at third base.

DSCN0397The ‘Panners struck first in the second when Hayes got in on a pair of runs. The Goldpanners’ season leader in Run Contribution Percentage (RCP) tripled home Tanner Pinkston and scored on an Eric Hutting RBI groundout. RCP is a metric developed by Goldpanners broadcaster Gero von Dehn in 2000 that measures the percent of a team’s runs a player is directly involved in (either scoring or driving in). Hayes finished the ABL campaign with a .236 mark for the league’s highest-scoring team.

The ‘Stangs tied things up at two in the fourth with three hits against Puckett. Zac Johnson provided the big hit with an RBI double. The outfielder hit just .177 for St. Joseph’s in the regular season. But his double in the gap got St. Joe’s on the scoreboard.

That was all Puckett allowed in 6.1 innings. The lefty got a no-decision and benefited from three double plays by his defense. The last of which, a 5-3-5 double play, got Andrew Buehler out of a jam in the seventh after coming on with a runner Puckett allowed into scoring position.

But the Goldpanners couldn’t muster anything after their pair of runs in the second against St. Joe’s starter Jake Jones. The right-hander out of Missouri Western controlled the strike zone for the better part of the day, striking out eight and walking just one. And his team put him in line for the win in the eighth.

DSCN0481Andrew Buehler came back out in the top of the eighth and allowed a leadoff double to Trent Hill. The Mustangs’ DH finished 3-for-3 on the day and scored the go-ahead run when Brandon Huske delivered a bases loaded single. The hit scored two and also resulted in a double play when Pinkston cut off Scott Hurst’s throw to nab a runner at third and then get Huske trailing the play at second. But it gave the Mustangs the lead with two pitchers who hadn’t allowed a run all year ready to come into the game.

First it was Austin Aspegren, a submarine style pitcher, in the eighth. The St. Joseph’s set-up man threw his 25th shutout inning of the summer, striking out two. And he handed the lead over to the original DH, Trent Hill.

Hill would earn the save by getting Hunter Villanueva and Ryan Clark to pop out in consecutive at-bats. The lefty sidewinder from Mississippi State stranded two Goldpanners on base to send Fairbanks to the loser’s bracket. The ‘Panners managed just six hits all game.

With a loss on its record to begin the tournament, the ‘Panners face a win-or-go-home situation the rest of the way. They face the loser of the Santa Barbara Foresters and Sedalia Bombers Sunday.

‘Panners Finish off Peninsula with Eight-Run Sixth

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High-Def Picture – Click For Large Version

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.

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‘Panners Split Doubleheader, Clinch Spot in ABL Championship

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CORAL SEYMOUR MEMORIAL FIELD – After a rain-washed day yesterday, the Goldpanners resumed play with a scheduled doubleheader against the Oilers – looking to wrap up the American League division title. And even with a split of the two games with Kenai, Fairbanks walked away with its second straight division championship. The ABL transitioned to the divisional format after the 2012 season. The ‘Panners took game one by a score of 5-1 and fell 7-2 in game two.

Fairbanks jumped out to an early lead when Cody Nulph snapped out of an 0-for-11 slump with his team-leading ninth home run of the season. The two-run blast sailed over the left-fielder’s head. Tyler Mildenberg eventually scored the third run of the inning when Eric Hutting capped a streak of five straight ‘Panner hits with an RBI single.

Jayson Balades became the seventh different ‘Panner to start in the team’s last seven games and continued the staff’s recent success holding opponents to three runs or less. The Goldpanners have allowed just seven total runs in the seven-game streak.

The lefty contained the Oilers’ offense for five innings, just allowing a solo home run in the second. Balades kept his infielders honest with seven ground ball outs in his five innings of work – especially Tyler Mildenberg. The second baseman put out seven of Balades’ 11 ground ball outs, including all three in the fifth. He recorded put out in every inning but the third and finished with nine on the game.

The ‘Panners opened it up late with five runs in the last three innings. An inning after making a great play reaching over the fence down the left field line in foul territory, Jacob Hayes connected for an RBI triple off the wall in right center. And Vahn Bozoian kept pace with Nulph when he lifted his ninth home run of the year to straightaway center. The blast cleared the bases for three runs and made it 8-1. All the runs came off of the Oilers starting pitcher Nick Rogowski. Rogowski completed the game for Kenai, which also got a complete game effort in Thursday’s loss.

Andrew Buehler completed the last two innings, getting all of his outs on the ground. He allowed just one baserunner via a single in the sixth and was flawless otherwise.

In the second game, Fairbanks finally lost a game to the Oilers, 7-2. The loss marks the teams first against Peninsula all year. The Goldpanners have now lost at least once to each of the other five ABL opponents.

Torgen Soderlund got the start, which continued the run of different ‘Panners to start a game on the road trip. Soderlund threw well, but could only get through 4.1 innings. The Fairbanks native allowed two runs on three hits and surrendered all of the damage in the second inning.

Drake Zarate hit a solo homer to lead things off in the second and Alex Rubanowitz came around to score after a single. All of the hits Soderlund allowed in the game also came in that single inning.

Both sides cruised through the third, fourth and fifth before the Oilers took command in their half of the sixth. After Mike Benson came in on relief in the fifth to strike out consecutive batters with the bases loaded, Kenai got to the Fairbanks ace in the sixth. Mylz Jones crushed a three-run home run that put an exclamation point on a five-run inning.

The Goldpanners threatened by loading the bases in the sixth, but couldn’t score. Nolan Sheridan came on to strike out Tyler Mildenberg and get Cody Nulph to bounce out to third base. And the Oilers retained their shutout.

Jacob Hayes did end the scoreless evening with a two-out two-run home run in the seventh that landed in the trees beyond the right field fence. Hayes evened up with Nulph and Bozoian with his ninth home run and now has the chance to be the only ‘Panner with double-digit homers and stolen bases.

Despite the loss, a bevvy of rainouts reduced the ‘Panners’ magic number to zero by the end of Saturday’s games. Fairbanks will face Mat-Su in the ABL Championship with the only question being where the game will happen. The ‘Panners have one more game with the Oilers tomorrow before traveling back to Anchorage to finish the season.

Fairbanks Wins Rain-Shortened Game in Kenai

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CORAL SEYMOR MEMORIAL PARK – The Goldpanners made their one and only trip to the Southernmost location of the Alaska Baseball League Thursday. And Fairbanks took an abbreviated game one with a 6-0 win in five innings over the Kenai Peninsula Oilers.

With cool temperatures and a steady drizzle beginning about 30 minutes prior to first pitch, the coaches and umpires agreed to try to get the game in – determined to avoid another rainout. And the two teams obliged with an hour-long game that lasted five innings.

Mike Benson, Tylor Megill

Mike Benson, Tylor Megill

Tylor Megill made quick work of the Oilers with the first complete game for the Goldpanners all summer. Granted it was a rain-shortened game, Megill still dominated over five shutout innings. The tall right-hander struck out seven and allowed just two hits without walking an Oilers.

Fairbanks came through with five runs in the second inning that took any suspense out of the game early. With both sides figuring the game would go just five innings, a quick 5-0 lead gave the ‘Panners a pretty comfortable cushion. Kris Paulino delivered the big hit of the inning with a two-run double. And the fifth through ninth batters in the ‘Panners lineup all scored in the inning. Six different ‘Panners collected the team’s six hits.

DSCN9991Kenai never really threatened and was only able to advance one runner to second base in the game. Megill earned his fourth win of the summer and Fairbanks reduced its magic number to two before any other ABL games even began.

Game two of the series will begin with a first pitch at 6 PM tomorrow. And the players will return to spend their first night at the infamous “Bingo Hilton.” The Oilers’ sponsored bingo hall also serves as a lodge for the visiting teams.

‘Panner Pitching Continues to Dominate

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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.

Jace Puckett

Jace Puckett

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.

Scott Hurst (14)

Scott Hurst (14)

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.

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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.

Fairbanks and Mat-Su Win One Apiece

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HERMON BROTHERS FIELD – Tuesday’s doubleheader featured a potential ABL Championship preview that is becoming more and more likely with each passing day. In their only trip to Palmer on the schedule, the Goldpanners split a doubleheader with the National League champs, losing the first game 1-0 before regrouping for a 10-1 win.

Russell Harmening

Russell Harmening

Like the two games with the Bucs on Monday, game one was a fierce pitcher’s duel the entire way. Russell Harmening made his second start and came through with his best outing of the summer, but nothing would have been good enough to beat Tyler Stubblefield on this particular day. As the Miners’ ace bested the Goldpanners.

The lefty from Texas A&M allowed just three hits and struck out 11 ‘Panners. And he didn’t issue a walk in his third complete game of the summer. Stubblefield did not throw hard, sitting around 88 MPH the entire way, but he had the ‘Panners out in front of a straight changeup and a breaking ball.

Meanwhile, Russell Harmening didn’t give up any ground to Mat-Su. The reigning Golden State Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year had his command working with all of his pitches and caught four Miners looking at strike three before finally getting a swinging strikeout in the fifth. Harmening escaped his biggest jam in the fourth when he stabbed a comebacker with the bases loaded to keep the game scoreless.

Andrew Buehler (13-14)

Andrew Buehler (13-14)

But Mat-Su broke through in the sixth with consecutive hits off of Harmening to force him from the game. Andrew Buehler came in with runners of second and third and no outs and got Jonny Locher to hit a short fly ball to center. Mat-So Head Coach Ben Taylor decided to test Jacob Hayes’ arm in center with the game scoreless, which didn’t work out well. Hayes gunned down the runner at home for a spectacular double play. But the Miners responded with a hit into left field. Brandon Caruso’s throw arrived a fraction of the second too late and the Miners got Stubblefield the run he needed. He struck out Eric Hutting with Scooter Bynum on first to finish game one.

Jacob Hayes (14)

Jacob Hayes (14)

Game two saw more great ‘Panner pitching that Mat-Su could not maintain for the last seven innings. Chasen Ford made his first start since coming out of the bullpen for 4.1 innings against the Miners back in Fairbanks. And, like Harmening, Ford dealt his best start of the season with six innings of work.

Brandon Caruso (14)

Brandon Caruso (14)

The ‘Panners certainly helped out their starter with a crooked number in the first. Miners starter Seve Romo lasted just a third of an inning against Fairbanks, striking out Brandon Caruso to lead off the game before the next seven batters reached. Jacob Hayes got into one for his eighth home run of the year to regain a share of the team lead. And three Goldpanners followed Hayes’ two-run shot with RBI singles. Tyler Mildenberg’s sharply hit line drive sent Romo to the dugout after recording only a single out.

Ford conceded a run in the first when Paul Panaccione singled and the Miners bunted him over. Jonny Locher came through with a two-out RBI single, but that would be the only run Ford gave up all night. The Yale starting pitcher gave up just two hits after the first inning and didn’t walk a man until the fifth. He set down 11 Miners in a row from the end of the first inning to the start of the fifth.

Gero von Dehn and Elliott Strankman

Gero von Dehn and Elliott Strankman

After a couple quick middle innings, where I got the chance to take over the Pannervision play-by-play duties temporarily, Fairbanks added insurance in the fourth, fifth and seventh. Jacob Hayes and Tanner Pinkston did most of the damage, driving in two runs apiece in both the fourth and fifths. But it was really wasn’t necessary.

Even with the loss, Mat-Su’s earlier win coupled with a Glacier Pilots loss was enough to clinch the National League division crown by the day’s end. The Miners will play in the ABL Championship against either the Goldpanners or Bucs. But with a Chinooks win over the Bucs on Tuesday, Fairbanks now holds a commanding three-game lead in the division, including a six-game advantage in the loss column. The ‘Panners play one game against the Glacier Pilots tomorrow before making their one, and only, trip to Kenai for a series with the Oilers.

Goldpanners Take Two at Mulcahy

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MULCAHY STADIUM – Back track three weeks and the Goldpanners were at their lowest point of the summer after losing twice at home to the Anchorage Bucs and dropping to 1-4 in the League. Many around the club suspected it was the first time the ‘Panners had ever been swept in a doubleheader at Growden. But Fairbanks had a shot at redemption Monday. And it took advantage with a doubleheader sweep of its own in Bucs territory.

Mike Benson (14)

Mike Benson (14)

Mike Benson and Brett Marks dueled in game one. And Fairbanks’ bullpen eventually won out in a 2-1 victory. Marks, a Tennessee Volunteer, entered the game with a 2.01 ERA and left with an even lower mark. The Anchorage ace twirled seven one-hit innings and seven strikeouts. The only hit he allowed came in the fifth when Ryan Clark doubled home Mike Wieland to give the ‘Panners a 1-0 lead. Wieland reached on a base on balls before Hunter Villanueva bunted him over to second.

Like his counterpart, Mike Benson also lost his no-hitter in the fifth when he allowed the Bucs to tie the game with a run of their own. Mark Krueger lifted a fly ball to left field that just kept carrying all the way over the wall for an opposite field home run. The solo job led off the inning and was the first batter Benson allowed to reach base. The only other Anchorage batter to reach came on a Hunter Villanueva error. When the sixth inning began, each team’s runs/hits/errors line read “1-1-1″ and the score remained tied through seven innings, which meant extra innings with the doubleheader, seven inning format.

Mike Wieland (13-14)

Mike Wieland (13-14)

Still with just their one hit, the Goldpanners turned to their only source of offense all night when Clark doubled again. This time it led off the eighth against Bucs’ reliever Alex Godzak. Brandon Caruso attempted to bunt him to third when the Bucs catcher sailed a ball into center field on a pickoff attempt. Andy Crowley scooped the ball up in center and tried to nail Clark at third when his throw went into his team’s dugout to give the ‘Panners the go-ahead run without much manufacturing. Clark recorded his team’s only two hits, drove in the first go-ahead run and then scored the game-winner. And it all came from the nine spot in the lineup.

Luke Barker came back out for his second inning of work and got the last three outs cleanly to earn his third win of the year.

Despite the extra inning and a 30-minute break in between games one and two, the second game got underway earlier than expected following the tidy, hour and 50 minute game one. And the ‘Panners came away with another win in the fourth straight one-run game played between the two sides, 3-2.

A day after going 0-for in the State Farm ABL Home Run Derby, Jacob Hayes did it when it really mattered for his team with a two-run shot to begin the scoring in game two. Hayes turned on a fastball from Bucs starter Evan Manarino and lined a missile that just cleared the right field fence. Hayes would reach in all three of his plate appearances on the night.

Joel Belk (14)

Joel Belk (14)

Joel Belk followed Benson’s superb start with a great effort of his own. The ‘Panner righty picked right back up where he left off after an impressive showing at the ABL Showcase, throwing hard and controlling the strike zone. Belk allowed just one earned run over 5+ innings of work in the win.

But Belk got plenty of help from his catcher Eric Hutting. While Mike Wieland earned All-Star recognition, Hutting has shown the better arm behind the dish this summer and it paid dividends in the first inning of game two when he gunned down two of the three outs. First, Hutting nailed a runner at third who tried to go first-to-third on a wild pitch. Then he ended the inning catching an attempted base stealer at second. Belk allowed two of the three runners he faced in the first to reach, but he didn’t have to throw to anymore in the frame after Hutting’s work.

Anchorage got one in the fourth when Evan Powell scored all the way from first on a single that got through Scott Hurst in center. The error allowed the Bucs to get within one, but they wouldn’t get any closer. Brandon Caruso wrapped an RBI single into right in the next half inning and Belk got himself out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth when he picked a runner off of second with two men on and two outs.

Belk came back out in the sixth, which quickly spelled the end of his night. He hit the first batter he faced and then surrendered his first earned run with a double from Mark Krueger immediately after. Miles Chambers came into the game and did his job from there. Fresh off a save in the All-Star game, Chambers issued a walk to the first batter he faced before getting three consecutive ground outs. On the second out, he froze Krueger at third and ran him down himself for an unassisted putout at third base.

The Goldpanners threatened for some insurance in the top of the seventh with men on first and third and only one out, but Peter Lenstrohm got Scott Hurst and Vahn Bozoian to ground out to the third baseman. Hurst had his roughest day of the summer, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in the two games combined. They were also the first two games Hurst didn’t record a hit, as his 21-game streak came to a halt.

The missed insurance opportunity became a moot point when Chambers set the Bucs down 1-2-3 in the seventh for his third save on the season, which ties him with Luke Barker for the team lead. The wins put the ‘Panners up by 2.5 games in the American League before yet another doubleheader tomorrow. This time, Fairbanks travels to Palmer to play the Miners after the two teams’ twin bill was rained out on the last road trip. First pitch comes at 4 PM.