The Peninsula Oilers must win two loser-out games to reach the championship round of the National Baseball Congress World Series.
That quest begins today as the squad faces the San Diego Waves at 2 p.m. at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kansas.
What does Oilers coach Dennis Machado tell his club in the must-win situation?
"Nothing," Machado said by phone Wednesday. "There's nothing that needs to be said at this point of the year. They know what's going on. We are two wins away from making it to the national title game."
The Oilers, the three-time NBC champions and five-time finalists, suffered their first setback of the tournament in a 6-4 loss to the Santa Barbara (California) Foresters on Tuesday.
A lightning storm delayed the game for about an hour when it was tied at 4 entering the sixth inning. Santa Barbara scored two quick runs when play resumed, and Peninsula, which had erased a 4-1 deficit before the stoppage, struck out in 10 of its final 12 plate appearances.
On a night the Oilers struck out 16 times and left nine runners on base, the Foresters earned the deciding run in the top of the sixth.
Jeff McVaney tallied a sacrifice fly off Peninsula reliever and loser Mark Winkelman, who lasted 1 2-3 innings and gave up one run, to give the Foresters a 5-4 edge.
The Foresters added another run in the seventh after Peninsula third baseman Patrick Wisdom botched a grounder, allowing Michael Ratterree to reach safely. Ratterree then scored on a Legg single.
"It was kind of really bad timing for a delay," Machado said. "We had gotten momentum back on our side. Then the rain came and kind of snuffed out our momentum."
Wisdom hit an RBI-sacrifice fly to even the score at 1 in the bottom of the third, but the Foresters quickly answered.
A Derek Legg double to score Ratterree gave the Foresters a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, when they sent nine hitters to the plate to chase Maciel out of the game.
Legg eventually scored on a Tyler Pearson single down the line in right field, and Brett Vertigan bumped the lead to 4-1 with an RBI double. Vertigan was the last batter faced by Maciel, who yielded eight hits on 64 pitches in 3 2-3 innings, allowing four runs.
It was an uncharacteristic effort from Maciel, who chewed up innings during the regular season and earned the win in Peninsula's tournament-opening victory over the Honkers.
However, Peninsula quickly loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of singles and an error by
With one out, Mike Miller drilled a two-run double to deep right field, cutting the lead to 4-3. Chris Mallory then tied the game with a ground ball to the right side of the infield.
That would be all the scoring for the Oilers, leaving them with a pair of do-or-die games.
Jordan Mills, who led the Alaska Baseball League in victories, will get the start today.
Peninsula needs a quality outing from the 6-foot-5 left-hander in part because Brandon Kizer, a middle reliever, is unavailable for the remainder of the tournament because of a bulging disk. And fellow reliever Cameron McVey is questionable because of soreness in his upper body, though he threw a bullpen session Wednesday.
"He felt really good," Machado said. "We'll assess it and see how he feels tomorrow."
Now the goal is simple: Find a way to win.
"That's pretty much all we can do," Machado said.