PALMER - Early Sunday evening, the Peninsula Oilers looked ready to cruise to an easy victory. But the Oilers needed Reese McGraw's five-out save to hold onto a 7-5 win over the Mat-Su Miners at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer.
The first-place Oilers jumped to a 5-0 lead and held a 7-1 advantage in the fourth, but needed to kill a Mat-Su rally to pad their Alaska Baseball League lead.
The Oilers, who return to Hermon Brothers Tuesday night, improved to 19-9 with the win, and moved 3 1-2 games ahead of the second-place Anchorage Bucs, who were idle Sunday. Mat-Su stays in third place, but dropped to 15-15 and five games behind the Oilers.
Peninsula opened the game with three straight singles, and took advantage of a wild pitch and passed ball to score early runs in the win.
"It was a tough position to be put in that early in the game," Mat-Su head coach Brian Yocke said. "Give up a couple runs, and it's even more demoralizing when you give up a couple more after that first inning."
The Oilers tagged Mat-Su starter Brandon Hedrick for six hits and seven runs, six earned, in just three innings.
Mike Miller, Chris Mallory and Patrick Wisdom led off the game with consecutive singles.
Miller scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded to give the Oilers the 1-0 lead. Tanner Rust drew a one-out walk to load the bases again, and Mallory scored on a passed ball to push the Kenai-based team's lead to a pair of runs in the first.
Late in the inning, Greg Anderson used a two-run single to give Peninsula the 4-0 lead.
After taking the 5-0 lead in the second with a Troy Channing RBI single, the Oilers added a pair of runs in the fourth.
Miller scored on another wild pitch in the fourth and after Hedrick was chased off the mound, Channing drove in his second run of the win with a sacrifice fly off reliever Ben Graff.
Starter Ben Griset allowed one hit and one earned run over five innings to earn the win on the mound for the Oilers. While Griset had success against Mat-Su, the Miners were able to attack the Peninsula bullpen.
Tyler Blum allowed six hits and four earned runs in just 1 1-3 innings. James Mannara and Brandon Kizer combined for five walks in one inning.
"It was good for us to make them have to work," Yocke said.
McGraw didn't allow a hit and fanned one over 1 2-3 innings to earn his fourth save of the summer.
Mat-Su scored four in the seventh, and had either the game-tying or game-winning run at the plate during each of the final three innings. The Miners loaded the bases in the seventh and eighth innings, but the Oilers were able to get the big out each time.
In the seventh, back-to-back walks with the bases loaded cut the Oilers' lead to 7-5.
Wesley Jones drew the first bases-loaded walk and Michael Suiter scored to bring the Miners within three runs. Adam Martin followed with another walk and Ryan Ford scored.
With the bases loaded again, Kizer was able to strike out Mat-Su's Michael Gerlach to end the seventh.
In the eighth, McGraw fanned Stephen Branca with the bases loaded to get out of that inning.
"A good pitcher came in and he was throwing tough," Yocke said. "It was not a lack of effort. You can't complain if the guys are competing hard.
The fact we were in that situation shows that."
The Oilers stay on the road today when they face the Anchorage Glacier Pilots at 7 p.m. at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.