With shortstop Mike Miller showing why he was voted the Alaska Baseball League's Player of the Year, the Peninsula Oilers remained alive Thursday in their quest to claim the club's fourth championship at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.
Miller cranked a three-run home run and drove in five runs to spearhead an 11-hit attack and propel the Oilers to a 9-2 victory that eliminated the San Diego Waves at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Miller drove in one run with a second-inning ground-out, hammered a three-run bomb off reliever Clayton Voechting in the eighth inning and earned another RBI with a ninth-inning, bases-loaded walk. Miller has driven in a tournament-high 10 runs in five games.
Peninsula, which seized NBC titles in 1994, 1993 and 1977, is one of just three teams left in the 32-team, double-elimination tournament. The Oilers won their first three games in the tournament that crowns the champion of summer amateur baseball by a combined score of 30-5 before Tuesday night's 6-4 loss to the Santa Barbara Foresters, the only undefeated team remaining.
The Oilers today at 4 p.m. ADT play the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons. The winner of today's game advances to Saturday's championship game against Santa Barbara, and must win that game to force an if-necessary championship game later Saturday.
Five Oilers pitchers combined to scatter eight hits and hold the Waves to just 1 of 9 hitting with runners in scoring position.
Reliever J.D. Salles, who took over for starter Jordan Mills with one out, one run in and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning, earned the win. He threw a wild pitch behind San Diego's Max Duvall, but a fortuitous ricochet off the backstop allowed Oilers catcher Manny Reyes to relay the ball to Salles, who tagged out Craig Shul at the plate. Salles induced a ground-out to escape the inning.
Reliever Reese McGraw replaced Salles with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning and fanned Tim Rowley to stymie the San Diego threat. McGraw whiffed three of the four batters he faced.
The Oilers, 4-1 in the tournament, never trailed Thursday and have not trailed in any of their victories.
They built a 5-0 lead on Tanner Rust's RBI single in the first inning, Miller's RBI ground-out in the second and a three-run fifth inning. In the fifth, Rust furnished a sacrifice fly, and Stephen Branca and Boomer Collins delivered RBI singles.
Branca and Collins, who the Oilers picked up for the tournament, have both proved valuable additions. Collins, who played the ABL season for the Anchorage Bucs, is hitting .529 (9 for 17) and Branca, who played for the Mat-Su Miners, is hitting .429 with eight RBIs. Each has stolen two bases.
The Oilers are hitting .323 in the tournament and have generated a on-base percentage of .435. Their pitching staff owns a 2.54 earned-run average. And they have committed just two errors in five games.
Lefty Van Brunt, the longtime Anchorage Glacier Pilots pitching coach who died May 24 at age 78, will become the fourth Glacier Pilot inducted into the NBC World Series Hall of Fame.
The ceremony is tonight. Glacier Pilots general manager Jon Dyson will be in Wichita to accept the honor.
Previously inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Pilots were Chris Chambliss, who was MVP of the 1969 World Series the Pilots won and was inducted with the inaugural class of 1991; Mark McGwire, who was inducted in 1999; and the late Jack O'Toole, the assistant coach who was inducted in 2002.