The Fairbanks Goldpanners, who dominated the Alaska Baseball League in the last month, delivered the finishing touch Wednesday by winning the Top of the World Series and seizing the crown as champions of the six-team summer circuit for college players.
The Panners used right-hander Andrew Buehler’s superb five innings of relief and a two-run fifth inning to beat the Mat-Su Miners, 2-1, at Mulcahy Stadium and take the best-of-3 series in two games.
The Panners pounded the Miners, 14-0, in Tuesday night’s opener.
Fairbanks heads to the 80th annual National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas, where it opens play Saturday. The Panners have won six NBC titles – the last came in 2002 – and been runners-up five times.
Fairbanks has gone 21-3 in its last 24 games.
After Fairbanks starter Joel Belk walked the first two Miners he faced in the bottom of the fifth inning, Buehler took over -- figuratively and literally. He surrendered two hits in five scoreless innings, did not permit a run -- Jonny Locher’s RBI single was credited against Belk’s account -- didn’t walk a batter and struck out four while throwing 47 pitches.
The Panners used Brandon Caruso’s RBI double and Scott Hurst’s RBI single to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning.
Those runs snapped Mat-Su starter Ryan Hendrix’s streak of 24-plus consecutive innings without permitting an earned run. Hendrix scattered six hits in seven innings and struck out five. One of the two runs he surrendered Wednesday was unearned because of his error.
Caruso went 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and scored one run. Fairbanks’ Jacob Hayes went 2 for 3.
Mat-Su’s Cameron Frost went 2 for 4 to account for half his club’s hits.
The Top of the World Series matched the American League champion Panners against the National League champion Miners.