After struggling to get hits in clutch situations through the first three games of their series against Oceanside, Calif., the Panners delivered in a big way in the fifth inning on Friday.
Eric Keefner hit back-to-back two-run singles with two outs as the Panners overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Oceanside 5-2 in the final game of their series at
Growden Memorial Park.
Casey McKenzie made his debut as a Panner and picked up the win. Displaying an array of nasty off-speed pitches, McKenzie struck out nine and allowed two runs on five hits in six innings of work.
McKenzie watched with interest as the Panners put together their four-run fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead.
"Those two runs, I could've done without those," McKenzie said of the pair he allowed in the third. "But that (fifth inning) was pretty good. I was kind of excited, thinking, 'Yeah, I'm off the hook.' "
The win, coupled with a 2-1 win in the
Midnight Sun Game, allowed the Panners (7-7 overall, 1-1 in the Alaska Baseball League) to claim the last two games of the nonleague series and salvage a split with the Waves.
The Panners have today off before starting a string of 23 games in 22 days with a two-game series against
Athletes in Action on Sunday and Monday.
"It's going to be great," Leathers said of the off-day. "I'm going to be relaxing and not think about baseball at all."
Athletes in Action will take on Oceanside at 7 tonight at Growden Memorial Park.
The Panners, who scored a total of six runs on 11 hits in the first three games of the series, were similarly frustrated through the first four innings on Friday.
But John Purdom and Wyn Spencer got things going in the fifth, leading off with consecutive singles. After Ryan Strain struck out for the first out of the inning, Oceanside second baseman Travis Lester bobbled a potential double-play ball by
Tony Perez with one out, leaving the bases loaded.
Eric Kitchen flew out for the second out of the inning, bringing Leathers to the plate. After working the count to two balls and two strikes, Leathers slugged a pair of pitches foul to left off Waves pitcher Greg Bouchy before singling to center, scoring Purdom and Spencer on the play.
"He threw me three straight sliders," Leathers said. "The first two hung inside and I think the last one was supposed to be outside, but it caught too much of the plate."
Eric Keefner followed with a single to left field that scored Perez and Leathers to put the Panners ahead 4-2. The Panners connected for four of their six hits in the inning.
"We've been hitting the ball hard all year," Leathers said. "Some day we are going to have a game where we don't hit the ball well and they all fall in for hits."
The Panners added a fifth run in the sixth inning, which proved to be more than enough for the team's pitching staff.
After McKenzie left in the sixth inning,
Zak Basch and Hank Logan combined to pitch three perfect innings of relief. The three pitchers combined to strike out 13 Waves in the contest.
McKenzie struggled in the first, but Oceanside failed to score despite getting two hits, two walks, a stolen base and a Panners error in the inning. The Waves' Gera Alvarez was thrown out at home and Chris Mash was thrown out at third base in the inning.
McKenzie then struck out the side in the second inning and had at least one strikeout in each of his first five innings of work. Waves batters were routinely frozen on third-pitch sliders from the right hander. Bobby Womble, who was 3 for 3 with two doubles against McKenzie, was the lone Waves batter to consistently hit the Panners newest pitcher.
"It was his first outing and he threw real well. He kept us in the game," Leathers said. "And then after we had our big inning, he kept them off the scoreboard, which is huge."
McKenzie plays on the same University of Tampa team as
"I guess the Panners had a couple of pitchers drafted, so they ended up not having enough pitchers," McKenzie said. "Carrow told (Goldpanners manager
Chris Jones) about me and he called me up and was like 'You want to play?' and I was like sure."
McKenzie arrived in Fairbanks late Tuesday.