August 7, 2016 - Alaska Baseball League (Alaska) - Mat-Su Miners
PALMER, Alaska - When Mat-Su Miners head coach Ben Taylor arrived in Palmer in the summer of 2013, he had one goal in mind - an Alaska Baseball League championship.
After three consecutive years as the league runner-up, Taylor saw his goal come to fruition on Sunday as the Miners took down the Oilers 6-3 to claim the ABL title at Hermon Brothers Field.
"This is the most satisfying day on the baseball field," Taylor said. "This is pretty surreal."
The Oilers (24-20 regular season, 1-2 playoffs) opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with an RBI double from Seth DeWitt.
Mat-Su rightfielder Garrison Schwartz responded with a bases-loaded single in the top of the third to score centerfielder Brooks Stotler and knot the game at 1-1.
The Miners (26-18 regular season, 3-0 playoffs) added sacrifice flies from leftfielder Michael Donadio and shortstop Josh Bissonette later in the inning to grab a 3-1 lead.
Peninsula starter Hasten Freeman went just two innings on the mound, allowing three runs on two hits while walking four batters. Relief pitcher Zack Hamilton took over in the top of the third and gave up two runs and five hits in five innings of work.
Shortstop Trey Dawson cut the Oilers deficit to one run in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI double to score third baseman Alex Seifert.
The seesaw offensive battle continued in the fourth inning. Mat-Su designated hitter Jacob Hughey singled with one out to score catcher Andy Cosgrove, while Seifert drove a ball to right field to score second baseman Marshall Boggs with a sacrifice fly.
Miners starting pitcher Justin Vernia surrendered three runs and four hits in his ninth Alaska Baseball League appearance. Reliever Tyler Wyatt took the mound in the fifth and provided three scoreless innings of relief.
The Miners stretched the lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth inning when second baseman Levi Jordan flew out to centerfield to score Cosgrove.
Schwartz added an insurance run in the top of the ninth with a double to deep centerfield, scoring Jordan all the way from first base. Third baseman Angelo Armenta followed with a two-run double to give the Miners an 8-3 advantage.
Cosgrove added a sacrifice fly in his final at-bat to stretch the lead to six runs.
Mat-Su closer Jordan Floyd entered with one out in the top of the eighth and retired all five batters that he faced.
"Going into this year, I never liked the ninth inning," Taylor said. "But I've never trusted a player more with the last three outs of a big game than Jordan Floyd. He's Mr. Automatic."
Hughey led the Mat-Su offense with four hits in five at-bats, while Scudder reached base in every at-bat with five walks.
"I just shortened up my approach a little bit and try to work the other side of the field," Hughey said.
Seifert provided the bulk of the Peninsula offense, going 2 for 2 at the plate with a run and an RBI.
The title is the first for the Miners since the 2010 season and the fifth under the supervision of general manager Pete Christopher.
"My phone has been blowing up with former players," Taylor said. "This organization is just something really special."