2001 home season for the Alaska Goldpanners featured a number of remarkable games, but the team's finale topped them all.
The game featured a grand slam and a three-run home run by
Todd Leathers and one of the biggest brawls in recent memory at
Growden Memorial Park in front of a diehard band of more than 20 fans. The Panners shelled the Mat-Su Miners 16-1 in a game that started at 10:40 p.m. Monday and didn't finish until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
A 5-4 loss to Mat-Su earlier in the day officially eliminated the Panners from the chase for a spot in the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kan., but the Panners still came out and had by far their biggest offensive night of the season. The second game didn't begin until 10:40 because of a pair of rain delays totaling almost two hours in the first contest.
Leathers had an RBI fielder's choice in the first inning, a three-run home run in the third and a grand slam in the fifth as the Panners roared to a 14-1 lead after five innings of play. They finished with 16 runs on 21 hits.
"Our hopes of making it to Wichita were over and I guess we relaxed a little and finally played like we are capable of playing," said Leathers, who has four more home runs than anybody else in the Alaska Baseball League this season. "The home runs are nice, but I'd much rather take wins than home runs."
Panners catcher Wyn Spencer laid down a bunt single in the fifth inning with his team already holding a huge lead. In the sixth, Mat-Su pitcher Roy Friesen threw pitches high and inside to Panners John Purdom and
Eric Keefner, intimidating pitches that both batters felt were delivered with a purpose.
Purdom hit a two-run double, then after watching the pitch veer close to Keefener, yelled at Friesen. Miners third baseman David Griffin and shortstop Willie Melendez came over to Purdom at second base, Purdom and Griffin exchanged punches and the benches of both teams cleared.
Griffin, Purdom and Melendez were all ejected. Griffin and Purdom were also suspended by the league for one game. Friesen was not ejected from the game.
"It was great. That's the first time that's ever happened that I can remember," said Fairbanks native
Sean Timmons, who earned the complete-game victory for the Panners.
"The first thing Wyn and I said to each other is 'I guess we're setting up outside the rest of the night,"' added Timmons. "This has been a strange season. A lot of extra-inning, one-run games and now this."
Panners pitcher and noted clown
Zak Basch joined Internet broadcaster Gero von Dehn to do color during the game.
Late in the game, Mat-Su sent in a couple of players not on the pressbox roster, prompting Goldpanners announcer Todd Dennis to introduce a player at one point by saying, "Now batting, No. 8."
Panners head coach Chris Jones missed the second game of the doubleheader because he had a 1 a.m. flight out of Fairbanks to interview for a coaching job. He plans to catch back up with the Panners on their road trip to Kenai.
High school junior
Scott Robinson, son of former Panner Bruce Robinson, was set to join the Panners for their final three games of the regular season and the Anchorage Bucs Wood Bat Invitational.