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Miners win Alaska Baseball League championship with victory over Oilers

  • Author: Stephan Wiebe
  • Updated: August 7, 2016
  • Published August 7, 2016

PALMER — The hunt for the elusive Alaska Baseball League championship is finally over for Mat-Su Miners manager Ben Taylor.

The Miners defeated the Peninsula Oilers 9-3 Sunday afternoon at Hermon Brothers Field to win the best-of-three ABL Top of the World Series in two games.

After three straight seasons watching other teams rush the field at the expense of the Miners, Taylor finally got to see his guys make a postgame dog pile at the pitcher's mound.

"It's really sweet," Taylor said. "I've been on the other side of this thing three times and it's tough. To finally get over the hump is really special.

"To do it in front of the best fans in the Alaska Baseball League and to bring it back to the Valley is just a really special feeling."

The Miners (28-19, 26-18 ABL) went 3-0 in the ABL playoffs to earn the franchise's first title since 2010.

Mat-Su blew open a close game Sunday with a four-run ninth inning.

With his team up 5-3, Miners right fielder Garrison Schwartz smacked an RBI double to deep center field to score Levi Jordan from first base.

The Miners stretched their lead four batters later on a two-run double by third baseman Angelo Armenta to make it 8-3.

Catcher Andy Cosgrove drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly and closer Jordan Floyd retired the Oilers' first three batters in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win.

"Something we talk about is 'leave no doubt,' " Taylor said of his team's strong ninth inning. "These guys left no doubt and they took good care of Floyd there in the ninth and gave him some breathing room."

The Oilers (30-26, 24-20 ABL) took their only lead on a Seth DeWitt RBI double in the first inning.

The Miners grabbed the lead for good with three runs in the third.

The third inning was also the Oilers' best chance to try to reclaim the lead, but the Miners dodged disaster.

Down 3-2, the Oilers loaded the bases with one out Mat-Su startier Justin Vernia got out of the jam with a 1-2-3 double play.

Oilers left fielder ShihTsung Wang hit a one-hopper back to Vernia, who threw to Cosgrove for an out at home plate. Cosgrove's throw to first base beat Wang to end the inning.

"I knew if I gave up a ground ball anywhere, it'd be a double play," Vernia said. "It happened to come back to me so I was ready to get it right back to the catcher.

"We're a bunch of grinders. We all … work hard every day and when maybe we're not playing well, we come out and work as hard as we can and find ways to win. That's what we did all summer and we did it today."

Jordan and Cosgrove each scored two runs to lead the Miners. Designated hitter Jacob Hughey had the biggest day at the plate with four hits, a run and an RBI.

Alex Siefert went 2 for 3 with a run and an RBI for the Oilers.

Fans celebrated with the Miners after the final out. Kids came onto the field with drawings and baseballs for players to sign, Miners general manager Pete Christopher received an ice shower and a Miners host parent flew a small drone above the scene to capture everything on video.

"That's how this thing is," Taylor said. "This team is more than just a coaching staff and players — it's the board of directors, it's Pete Christopher, it's the volunteers, it's the fans.

"This is the Valley's team and this the Valley's championship."