A wild game ended on an appropriate note.
Marc Tugwell dashed home on a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Alaska Goldpanners a memorable 2-1 win over the Oceanside Waves in the
Midnight Sun Game.
"I knew it had to end some crazy way; nobody could hit the ball," Tugwell said.
The Panners didn't need a hit in their winning rally. They loaded the bases on a trio of walks in the inning, then Tugwell easily came in with the winning run when Matt Coy's third pitch to
sailed inside, nearly hitting Perez and eluding the reach of catcher Casey Grzecka.
The game ended at 2:05 a.m. and, as always, was played without the aid of artificial lighting. Close to 3,500 people crammed into
Growden Memorial Park to witness the contest.
Although official records are not kept, the game reputed to have taken the longest to complete was a 14-12 Panners win over Kelowna, British Columbia, in 1998 that finished at 2:15 a.m.
"I'm glad we didn't get the record," Goldpanners manager
Chris Jones said, while combating swarms of mosquitoes in the team's dugout after the game. "We had base runners all game, we just couldn't score guys. I thought we could've gotten it over in nine."
The game was longest in terms of innings played in the Panners' 42-year history of playing in the Midnight Sun game.
The Panners only had four hits in the game, but picked up 13 walks. They left 14 runners on base. Oceanside had five hits and left nine runners on.
As the bottom of the 13th inning began, the sun was just getting ready to rise over the ridge north of Fairbanks, sending a pink hue to meet the slowly dissipating clouds that had hung over Growden throughout the short night.
Goldpanners assistant manager Todd Dennis played the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun," as the Alaska Goldpanners came to bat.
"I knew there was no chance they were going to call the game because it was actually starting to get lighter out," Jones said.
The bottom of the inning began inconspicuously enough as Eric Keefener flew out to right. At that point, Waves relief pitcher Paul Sweeney had retired 11 of the last 12 batters he had faced while holding the Panners scoreless through more than six innings.
Sweeney's control suddenly left him, however, and he issued walks to Tugwell and John Purdom. Matt Coy relieved Sweeney and walked Jason Lopez on four pitches to load the bases.
The fourth ball to Lopez got past the catcher and Tugwell came flying around third base toward home, but opted to head back to third. It appeared Tugwell probably would have been thrown out if had headed home.
Coy then retired Lance Dawkins on a fly ball to shallow left field that was caught by the shortstop. Tugwell made a fake towards home on the play, but only to draw a throw.
But when Coy's third ball to the Panners' Tony Perez sailed toward the backstop, there was no hesitation as Tugwell cruised home.
"Coach said if there was any doubt, it doesn't matter, just go," Tugwell said. "(Coy) is a submariner, so his ball moves a lot."
Throughout the Goldpanners' rally, Dennis punctuated each crucial pitch with a Day, Day-O snippet from Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song (in which the refrain, which wasn't played, says, "Daylight come and we want to go home").
Several hundred fans still remained when that final pitch was delivered. Thousands packed the park for the 10:30 p.m. start of the game and most stayed through the first nine innings of play.
"The main thing that shocked me was that people stayed around all night, four hours long," Tugwell said. "I haven't seen fans like this ever."
PANNER NUGGETS: It was the ninth consecutive Midnight Sun Game win for the Panners. The home team is 32-10 overall and has won 26 of the last 29 Midnight Sun Games. ... Through 13 innings and 84 at bats, the team has combined for just nine hits. ... Three pitchers--Panner Travis Soppe and Waves Eric Human and Paul Sweeney--each threw six or more innings in the game. None of the six pitchers in the contest allowed more than one run. ... Greg Russell picked up the win for the Panners. ... Oceanside's Gregor Connors was hit by Soppe in each of his first two at bats. ... The Waves' Bobby Womble and Gera Alvarez hit doubles in the game. All of the Panners' hits were singles.