The rivalry between the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Anchorage Bucs may not be quite as rowdy as it once was, but emotions were running high as the Pilots claimed their seventh straight Mayor's Cup series and maintained a share of first place in the Alaska Baseball League by beating the Bucs 8-5 Wednesday.
"I hear from the coaches that the rivalry was huge and they like wanted to fight each other all the time," said the Pilots' Micah Green, who scored the winning run at Mulcahy Stadium. "Now, we're both pretty cool. We like them, they like us, but we're all real competitive."
Green gave the Pilots a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning when he stole home as part of a double steal that had Tyler Spoon swiping second base. When Bucs catcher Tanner Rust threw to second in an attempt to nail Spoon, Green bolted for home.
"You go right on arm action," Green said. "Once I knew he didn't have eyes on me and he threw down to second base, I just took off."
Green's bold move capped a four-run rally that started with a two-run triple from Axel Johnson. Johnson, who finished with two hits, three RBIs and two runs, tied the game at 5-5 when he scored from third on a fielder's choice.
The victory was the second straight for the Pilots (14-8), following a 4-2 win over the Bucs (11-13) on Tuesday. The Bucs won the first game of the best-of-3 Mayor's Cup series 5-4 on Monday.
Though Wednesday's game contained just two lead changes, the momentum seemed to shift often, creating an emotional ride for the players, Spoon said.
Spoon woke everyone up with a home run on the game's first pitch, drilling the ball onto Anchorage Football Stadium's turf beyond the left-field wall.
"I noticed the last couple of days they were trying to pitch me in a little bit, so I just went up there with the approach that they were going to throw me in," Spoon said. "I got a pitch over the plate and I hit it well. That's the way to get going, but it's only one run and you gotta keep pounding away."
The Pilots tacked on another run in the top of the first for a 2-0 lead only to watch the Bucs tie it with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Bucs starter Tanner Kichler settled into a groove in the second inning, and by the time Rust ripped a two-run homer off Trey Teakell in the bottom of the fourth, the Bucs appeared to be in control. When Collin Ferguson hit his second RBI-double in the bottom of the fifth to put the Bucs up 5-2, players may have been a little too comfortable with the lead.
"I think we got a little complacent with how the game was going," Ferguson said. "It's important to stay focused and keep pushing on the accelerator, 'cause they're a good team that can come back and beat us in any inning."
Kichler still looked strong in the sixth inning, facing the minimum three batters, but everything started to unravel in the seventh. He gave up a leadoff walk to the Pilots' Jeff Kremer followed by a base hit by Matt Daugherty and watched both of them score on the triple by Johnson. Green reached base when he was grazed by a pitch, stole second and, after a pitching change, moved to third on a fielder's choice that scored Johnson. Spoon drew a walk to put runners on the corners and set up the double steal.
Johnson and Green got things going again for the Pilots in the eighth inning, with Johnson ripping a two-out RBI-single and scoring from first on Green's hard double to left center.
Dougherty pitched a scoreless eighth for the Pilots and Travis Pitcher earned a save in the ninth.
The loss put the Bucs four games behind the league-leading Pilots and Peninsula Oilers, but Ferguson said the team has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic with less than three weeks left in the season.
"I thought we swung the bats pretty well today, I thought we played some pretty solid defense and I thought we threw pretty well," he said. "We're a solid team and if we can figure out a way to put it all together here on this last stretch, we can definitely make a run."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News