Home Alaska Baseball League 49th State Hardball Report: Panners Clinch Pennant

49th State Hardball Report: Panners Clinch Pennant

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Two months, 35 regular-season games, a handful of exhibition matches, numerous bus rides and a whole bunch of sweat & dirt later, the champions of the Alaska Baseball League regular season have been crowned. For 2013, that team is the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks.
With a .629 win percentage to their credit, the 22-13 (regular season) Goldpanners would seem like a lock to win in any league, but in Alaska the job is never easy. They had to overcome an early-season deficit and surpass three other teams with records better than .500 to make it to the top, and the decisive blow wasn’t dealt until the second-to-last game of the season.
In perhaps the most exciting pennant race since 2010’s epic three-way battle between the Goldpanners themselves, the Miners and the Oilers, Fairbanks came out on top. That season, the race went down to a double-header on the last day of the regular season with the Goldpanners owning a one-game lead and needing a split to secure the title. However, the Miners had home-field advantage and swept the Panners, clinching first place with the last pitch of the year.
This time, history looked poised to repeat itself except the tables were turned. This time it was the Miners coming to Fairbanks for a four-game set, including a doubleheader, in a dead even tie. Whichever team won the series would win the title. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that the Anchorage Bucs were nipping on both of the teams’ heels and facing the last-place Chinooks; a split in Fairbanks and a good showing in Chugiak would have put the Bucs into sole possession of first place.
The Panners breezed to a victory in the first game of the series, taking Thursday night’s match by a score of 9-2 behind Drew Mitrisin in his finest start of the season, who had some help in the form of a three-inning save by Cody Moffett, and was supported with four RBIs off the bat of Casey Munoz. In the first game of the next day’s twin bill, the Miners looked poised to win, but the Panners proved resilient and came back swinging in the final frame for a walk-off, 8-9 win.
It was the nightcap where pitchers Michael Dingilian, Joey Capistran and Andrew Buehler — backed by a team effort on offense — sunk the final nail into the coffin and clinched sole possession of first place.
And so ends another chapter in Alaska’s book of baseball. But don’t forget, there’s still more ball to be played under the midnight sun as the “second season” kicks off in Anchorage this week!
 
AROUND THE LEAGUE
With the regular season in the books, all eyes turn to Anchorage for the first-annual post-season tournament.
This year’s playoffs feature five teams — the Chinooks, Goldpanners, Glacier Pilots, Bucs and Miners — in a five-way, round robin tournament running Monday through Friday with each team playing one another. The top two teams in the round-robin standings will advance to a best-of-three finals to crown the champs.
The Miners had an athletic and moral victory in the opening bout on Monday night, pushing the tying run across on the Bucs in the 9th and winning in walk-off fashion during the 10th by a final score of 3-2. It was Nick La Face who singled in Gio Brusa for the winning run.
The tournament continues at Mulcahy Stadium on Wednesday with the Chinooks and Bucs at 6, and the Goldpanners and Miners at 9. Thursdays Goldpanners/Pilots game (1 pm) and Miners/Chinooks match-up (5 pm) will be held in Chugiak at Loretta French Park. Then it shifts back to Anchorage on Friday for a Goldpanners/Chinooks at 3, followed by Pilots/Bucs at 7.
The finals will kick off on Saturday with a 4pm & 7pm doubleheader between the top two teams. If necessary, game three will be held on Sunday at 2 o’clock. All final games will be in Anchorage.
After that, it’s all she wrote for the ABL in 2013 before we embark on the long, long off-season. That’s not to say that fans of the Alaska Baseball League won’t have something to pay attention to, though; with all of the hot prospects coming through AK, there’s always some familiar faces to see whether it be in MLB, the Arizona Fall League, or college ball in the spring. Before you know it, it will be May again, time for this year’s boys to turn up in the Draft, and then a new season of baseball in the great white north. I’ll keep the watch for ABL alumni going all winter long over at my blog, 49thStateHardball.com, so why not check in once in a while?