After storming through the Alaska Baseball League in the second half of the season and seizing the league championship, the Fairbanks Goldpanners ran into trouble Saturday in their opener at the 80th National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas.
The Goldpanners fell 4-2 to the St. Joseph Mustangs of Missouri, and that leaves them with no margin for error in the double-elimination tournament that crowns the national champion of amateur summer baseball.
Brandon Huske's two-run single in the top of the eighth inning broke a 2-2 tie. The Panners had runners on first and second bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Mustangs reliever Trent Hill earned the save by inducing Hunter Villanueva to fly out to center field and Ryan Clark to foul out to first base.
St. Joseph starter Jake Jones (seven innings), and relievers Austin Aspegren (one inning) and Hill (one inning) limited the Panners to just six hits.
Fairbanks grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second, when Jacob Hayes' triple plated Todd Pinkston and Eric Hutting's ground-out scored Hayes. St. Joseph forged a 2-2 tie in the top of the fourth on Zac Johnson's RBI double and Huske's RBI ground-out.
Fairbanks starter Jace Puckett scattered nine hits in six-plus innings, surrendering two runs. Panners reliever Andrew Buehler absorbed the loss after giving up two runs, one unearned, in the eighth.
The Goldpanners on Sunday face the Sedalia Bombers (Missouri) in an elimination game.