It wasn't, as they had feared, a shortage of pitchers that doomed the Peninsula Oilers in Saturday's championship game of the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. It was a shortage of hits.
A first-inning run that scored with the benefit of an error was all the Santa Barbara Foresters needed to beat the Oilers 1-0 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and capture their third NBC title.
Playing their fourth game in five days with the prospect of an immediate rematch if they beat the undefeated Foresters in the double- elimination tournament, the Oilers (5-2) went with a pitch-by-committee approach. And it almost worked.
Eight pitchers, one near-gem. The staff allowed four hits, struck out three and walked three.
But the Foresters (7-0) were stingy too. Starter Mitch Mormann gave up four hits, struck out four, walked one and hit one over seven-plus innings for his first win of the tournament and reliever Spenser Messmore retired six straight for the save.
The runner-up finish marked the second time in three years that Oilers manager Dennis Machado -- who grew up on the Peninsula and was a pitcher for the Oilers' 1977 championship team -- led an Alaska Baseball League team to the title game. The first time was 2009 with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
The championship continued Santa Barbara's recent domination in Wichita, where the Foresters have won three titles in six years (2006, 2008, 2011) and appeared in the title game five times in the last nine years.
The Oilers, who finished the season with a 36-17 record and the ABL championship, were making their sixth appearance in an NBC championship game. They won it all in 1994, 1993 and 1977.
In both the seventh and eighth innings, the Oilers put their leadoff man on base. Each time, the Foresters came up with a big defensive play to escape.
The Oilers had runners at first and second with no outs in the seventh after Patrick Wisdom singled and Mormann hit Troy Channing with a pitch. Tanner Rust's fielder's choice moved Wisdom to third and put runners at the corners with one out, but Stephen Branca -- second in the tournament in RBIs with eight -- hit a line drive to the first baseman, who doubled off Channing to get Mormann out of the jam.
The Oilers chased Mormann in the eighth with Ryan McChesney's leadoff single. That brought on Messmore, who retired six straight. Boomer Collins followed with a line shot to the outfield, but was robbed of a hit by a diving Joe Wallace in right field and the next two Oilers went down meekly, on an infield popup and a grounder.
Messmore mowed down the heart of Peninsula's order in the ninth. Chris Mallory grounded out to shortstop, Wisdom struck out on five pitches and Channing looked at three straight strikes for the final out.
The game's only run came off Oilers starter Jordan Mills, pitching on two days of rest. Brett Vertigan hit a leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch, Jeff McNeil bunted safely and Mills committed an error on the play that moved Vertigan to third base. A groundout by McVaney drove him in.
Anchorage Daily News