The Kenai Peninsula (Alaska) Oilers have counted on stellar defense during their entire run in the National Baseball Congress World Series. They came into Friday's semifinal game against the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons having committed two errors in five games.
Friday, though, Kenai had three errors.
It didn't matter as the Oilers had 13 hits en route to an 11-6 victory over Nevada, advancing to tonight's championship game against the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters. For Kenai to win the NBC title, it must beat undefeated Santa Barbara twice.
Kenai last won NBC titles in 1993 and 1994.
"Definitely we had some miscues that didn't help a lot," coach Dennis Machado said. "It's not something we've done. It's one of those things that happens and you have to deal with it in the middle of the game."
Nevada, however, had its own defensive issues, and they were costly. The Griffons had three errors, as well, which led to eight unearned runs.
"That always hurts, but that's the nature of the game," said Nevada coach Ryan Mansfield, whose team finished third. The Griffons, who last played in a title game in 1998, also finished third in 2002.
The mistakes started early for Nevada when Kenai's Mike Miller opened the game with a hit to left field. Gavin Stark stumbled as he raced to field the ball and he didn't make the catch as Miller reached second on what was scored an error. Miller scored on a ground out and then Tanner Rust hit a two-run homer for a 3-0 lead.
"I had two homers in the summer," said Rust, a switch-hitter who went 3 for 3 with three runs, two RBIs and two walks. "They were both left-handed, so it was nice today to get one right-handed."
Nevada, which had 11 hits, tied the score in the second after an error extended the inning. Brad Wilson's two-run double evened the score.
But the fourth inning doomed Nevada.
Rust opened the inning by drawing a walk off starter Joel Klock. The next two Kenai batters reached, loading the bases for Boomer Collins, who hit a two-run double. Two batters later, Miller hit a two-run double. Chris Mallory followed with a run-scoring triple and Patrick Wisdom hit an RBI sacrifice fly.
While Nevada got three runs back in the bottom of the inning, it wasn't enough.
"That's just something you try to avoid every time out," Mansfield said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to keep it minimized. But we gave ourselves a chance. This is definitely the best baseball we've played all summer."
That Kenai's offense was on in the win bodes well heading into today's title game. At least that's what the Oilers hope.
"We're coming around (offensively)" said Rust, whose team had eight of nine players with at least one hit. "We're seeing the ball well. It's a good time to get hot. Hopefully it carries over to tomorrow."
Note — A 25-minute weather delay in the seventh inning included strong winds but no rain.