On a night when the Anchorage Bucs and Anchorage Glacier Pilots sent eight pitchers to the mound, the best performances came from the one who was seldom handed the ball in college and the one who wasn't handed the ball at all Wednesday night.
Mark Joukoff, who pitched only seven innings for Kansas State during the college season, was untouchable during four innings of relief for the Bucs, facing the minimum 12 batters and needing 31 pitches to mow them all down.
And Chris Matulis, who pitches for Louisiana State but was needed at first base as the Bucs continue to await the arrival of all their players, delivered the game-winning RBI with a nice piece of hitting in the eighth inning.
Their efforts led the Bucs to a 5-3 come-from-behind Alaska Baseball League victory at windy Mulcahy Stadium. The showdown left the city's two teams tied for the ABL lead with 3-1 records.
The Pilots led 3-0 after three innings, but the Bucs rallied behind a stronger bullpen -- and the clutch hitting by Matulis, their pitcher-turned-infielder.
"My role's changed a little up here. I got an opportunity to swing it a little bit, and so far it's worked out," said Matulis, who had two of his team's 13 hits.
"It's a lot of fun. I love both. I love pitching, I love being in control of a game. But hitting's got its strong points -- you can change the game."
Matulis, a left-hander, changed this one with a soft, opposite-field single to left field. He didn't crush the ball -- he stuck out his bat and slapped what the pitcher gave him.
"I've been working a little on that outside pitch, and working on going with the pitch," he said.
The hit scored Kellen Kiilsgaard, who started the rally with a one-out single and advanced to third on Zach Vincej's hit-and-run single. The run broke a 3-3 tie that had stood since the fifth inning, and Bret Atwood's two-out single scored Vincej to give the Bucs the two-run lead.
The outburst ruined a nice start for the Pilots, who got a first-inning leadoff homer from Drew Heid, two more runs in the third and a solid four innings from starter John Lally, a left-hander who struck out six and didn't allow a run.
The Pilots led 3-0 when Lally left, but things turned sour as soon as they turned to their bullpen in the fifth.
Ben Mount, a lanky 6-foot-7, gave up three runs on four hits in the fifth and didn't even last the full inning. Derrick Dingeman, the fourth of five Pilot pitchers, gave up four hits and two runs in the decisive eighth inning.
In both those innings, the Bucs strung together four hits -- timely production they haven't always enjoyed so far this season.
Keeping the Pilots in check as the Bucs mounted their comeback was Joukoff, who couldn't have performed better.
He allowed a base runner in the fifth but got rid of him quickly by helping the Bucs turn a 3-6-1 double play. He threw 10 pitches that inning, nine in the eighth and six apiece in the sixth and seventh.
At Kansas State, Joukoff appeared in four games and pitched seven innings. He didn't say why he got so few opportunities but said he intended to make the most of his chances while in Alaska.
"I need to get as many innings as I can so I can shoot right into the college season," he said. "I'll see what I can do to become a main part of the staff. I try to stay as positive as I can whether I'm playing a lot or not."
Joukoff handed the ball to closer Kevin Jacob for the ninth inning, and the Pilots tried to make things interesting.
Daniel Dellasega touched Jacob for a leadoff single but got no farther than first base. Jacob picked up his third save by striking out the next three batters, with all of them going down swinging.
Back when they were up 3-0, the Pilots had a chance to add a run when Casey McCollom drew a lead-off walk in the fourth. He stole second and tried to score from second base on Heid's long single to left field. But Atwood, the Bucs' left fielder, showed off a strong throwing arm by gunning down McCollum at the plate.
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.