I was very excited to get out to the ballpark to see the Oilers take on the Chinooks at Loretta French Field. It had been a long week and I hadn’t seen a game since Father’s Day. My previous attempt to see a Chinooks home game was stymied by weather. The temperature hit the mid-70′s, there was not a cloud in the sky, and the cool breeze was blowing lightly — a perfect day for baseball. I was seeing the Peninsula Oilers, an ABL team I hadn’t looked at this season, and finally watching the Chinooks play in their new digs. And there was zero chance of a rainout. Everything came together perfectly.
This game turned out to be a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair. 3 homers, 6 hit batters, and 28 hits (and, oddly enough, only 4 walks) led to a game in which the teams combined for 22 runs. The Oilers got off to a quick start, jumping out to an early lead against Chinooks’ Clint Manzo, benefiting from Oilers pitcher Nigel Nootbaar‘s early dominance. But Nootbaar would lose his edge by the end of the third and the Chinooks managed to jump back in front with a 5-run fourth inning that chased the pitcher. The Chinooks continued to outpace the visitors throughout the game, but things looked like they could turn in the Oilers’ favor when Tim Duxbury came out with a hand injury and Kelby Deerman failed to seal the deal. Bringing the game back to within two runs, the Oilers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the 9th, but failed to rally, allowing the Chinooks to take home victory and creep up the standings on the Kenai Peninsula club.
For the Oilers, Josh Miller, Riley Heinzer, Oscar Sanay, and Nate Ring each had a pair of hits; Ring and Trey Richardson both drove in two RBIs. The Chinooks’ Drew Shields and J.J. Turbin both went 3-for-5, Adam Humes had 4 RBIs while Steven Karkenny had 3, and every batter had a hit except for Drew Turbin, who reached base with a walk.
As I said, this was the first time I’d seen the Oilers, so my scouting notes on them are based on first impressions. I got a pretty decent look at a few players, though.
Nigel Nootbaar got the loss and, frankly, didn’t have a good start, but he showed some flashes of good pitching. He looked like he had a good pitch mix, using his offspeed well to keep batters off balance. He went right after hitters even when he was in trouble. Unfortunately, he made a few mistake pitches — such as the hung curve that Karkenny crushed for a homer. He also looked like he’d run out of gas by the 4th inning, and got the hook shortly thereafter. For what it’s worth, I heard he was throwing 92-93. I didn’t see the gun myself, but that seems consistent with other sources.
The Oilers’ catcher, Frank Martinez, was impressive to me. I saw him throw down to second twice; he nailed one runner and just missed another, although I credit that one more to the stealing abilities of the runner. He threw down in 2.0 seconds and both of his throws were right on the money. He’s got some line-drive power, drilling one to the fence and hoofing it — and I mean hoofing it — for a double; sacrificing in a run on a deep hit in another at-bat.
Nate Ring showed some offensive skill. So far it doesn’t look like his speed is really above average, at least getting out of the box, but he is an aggressive baserunner who will gain a base by putting himself in a good position and legging it out hard. He dug hard for first and was rewarded with a safe-by-a-hair single; later he would rack up a triple with a line drive all the way to the outfield fence. He even picked up a steal. At the plate he looked like he had a good, patient approach that let him get the pitch he wanted to hit.
As usual, I have a few leftover notes: Oscar Sanay looked disciplined at the plate, making pitchers throw strikes and coming up with a good two-out hit. Michael Coates looked like he was in a position to blow it but he settled down and worked out of a jam. Riley Heinzer had a good piece of two-strike hitting, seizing on a pitch up in the zone to drive a run in. Trey Richardson flashed some power with his second homer of the year.
As for the Chinooks, I’ve seen them a few times before, so I’m starting to form some opinions that are more solid. Still, it is early in the season, and I’ve jotted down anything of significance that I noted.
The most impressive pitcher to me for the Chinooks was Ryan Sullivan. The box score for the game is a pretty good hint that this would be thecase, but of course that’s just the tale of what happened, not why. He was little wild at first, and also about the time he was used up, but in between he looked sharp. He came on in a high-pressure situation and brought the game under his control. After giving up three balls to Ring he slowed the game down, started throwing strikes, and got the third out. From that point on he settled down and controlled the pace of the game effectively. In 2.1 innings of work he required only 11 pitches and surrendered just one hit. I am of the opinion that the “wins” stat is fairly meaningless but he probably deserved the W in this game, because his tough mentality is probably what won the game for the Chinooks.
There was some good power on display in this game for the Chugiak team. Kristopher Kwak got his second homer of the season of JD Salles; it was a pull homer for the lefty. He also hung tough with two strikes and had a good at-bat with an RBI single to center field. Steven Karkenny demonstrated some home run abilities as well; he was the one that seized on Nootbaar’s hanger and took it way deep. Later he would bring another RBI home on a sacrifice.
In right field, Scott Kalamar laid out to make a diving catch twice; he couldn’t come up with it but I like the aggressive play. As I noted last year, Kalamar has a pretty good arm from the outfield; his throw in from the field probably saved a run in this game. He strikes me as a down-in-the-dirt style of player and he showed that on the basepaths. It burned him once when he was caught stealing but he dove into home to score a run later in the game.
I’m a little concerned about Tim Duxbury. He made a good reflex play to knock down a a comebacker with his bare hand; the only problem is that he has to pitch with it still. His second practice pitch after taking the blow sailed to the backstop and that was it for him. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but that explains why he was knocked out of the game so quickly.
Leftover notes for Chugiak-Eagle River: J.J. Turbin showed an excellent bunt and good effort to use it for a hit; he also hung tough and hit with two strikes. Stockton Taylor used the whole field to get hits. Adam Humes looks like he’s got some line drive power; he can bang them off the wall.
At first I wasn’t too optimistic about the photos that I would get here. Loretta French Park is enclosed 360 degrees by a pesky chain-link fence which ruins a lot of photos. Also, since this was the first time I’d seen the Oilers, Job #1 for this game was getting as many face-shot profile pics as I could to use for later blog posts. However, I managed to find some decent angles at the park and when I got home and sorted through the photos I was pleasantly surprised at the amount that came out. As usually, below I’ve posted a few of my favorites, but I recommend checking out my full Picasa gallery of 93 Chinooks and Oilers photos. Here’s a few: