After what felt like a summer of one torrential downpour after another that caused many Alaska Baseball League regular season games to be rained out, the sun has been shining bright during the postseason thus far.
The two-time defending champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots not only seized the sunshine but they made the most of the mistakes and mishaps committed by their intown rival Bucs on Wednesday night at Mulcahy Stadium.
With the 8-4 victory, they completed the best-of-three series sweep to punch their ticket to their fourth straight Top of the World Series.
“When the Pilots win, the sun comes out,” Pilots infielder Andrew Nykoluk said.
After notching a 6-2 victory in the first game of the series Tuesday, Pilots interim manager Gehrig Mosiello knew the Bucs were struggling to field bunts. The Pilots were able to avoid errors Wednesday while their rivals racked up five and had more errors than hits through seven innings.
“We saw how they fielded a bunt in the second and third innings and decided we’re going to bunt more,” Nykoluk said. “We bunted, and it worked out. They had a couple miscues and bad throws, but I think we capitalized on a couple clutch hits.”
Following a scoreless opening inning, both teams went on to have multi-run innings in the second. The Bucs even held a narrow 3-2 lead before the Pilots vaulted back in front for good.
Nykoluk knotted the game up at 3-3 in the top of the fifth inning with a clutch RBI that was made possible due to an error.
That play ignited a Pilots rally. They exploded in the sixth for a whopping five runs while the Bucs began to implode and would be held off the board until the bottom of the eighth.
“I think it started a few things going,” Nykoluk said. “A bunt always puts pressure on a lefty pitcher out there. I forced him to throw it away and got to third.”
The win not only meant that the Pilots would keep their hopes of a three-peat live, but it also meant they’d get a day off before the first game of the Top of the World Series on Friday, where they’ll face either the Mat-Su Miners for the third year in a row or the Peninsula Oilers.
“I think everyone was motivated to get it done in two games,” Mosiello said. “No. 1 to get one more nice off day here in Alaska, but No. 2 from a team standpoint, the off-day is huge because it’s one less day of pitching that the other two teams are going to have to use.”
Their off-day plans will include getting plenty of rest and maybe spending some time with batting practice and field grounding balls.
This summer marked Nykoluk’s first time in Alaska, and as much as he has enjoyed going on hikes and exploring trails, he’d love nothing more than to cap off his summer with a championship.
“That would be the icing on the cake for sure,” he said.