Goldpanners 3, Pilots 1
The Fairbanks Goldpanners continued their hot streak and extended their lead in the ABL standings to two games with a 3-1 win over the visiting Anchorage Glacier Pilots at Growden Memorial Park on Friday.
The Goldpanners (14-6), who received a boost from a two-RBI performance from Nick Catalano, have won seven of their last eight games. The second-place Mat-Su Miners (15-11) were idle Friday.
Fairbanks starting pitcher Nathan Bannister struck out seven in seven scoreless innings to earn a win, with Kevin Sprague closing the last two innings for his eighth save.
Kewby Meyer led the Pilots with three hits, driving in Brody Russell for the Pilots only run in the top of the ninth inning.
FAIRBANKS — Nick Catalano got off to an 0-2 start at the plate for the host and first-place Alaska Goldpanners in Friday night’s Alaska Baseball League series opener against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
Panners hitting coach Derek Nicholson told the center fielder to make some changes in his swing. Catalano didn’t disclose the details of Nicholson’s advice, which led to Catalano driving in runs in his last two at-bats to aid a 3-1 victory at Growden Memorial Park.
The Panners, 14-6 with their fourth win in a row, also were spurred by a seven-inning shutout effort from unbeaten starting pitcher Nathan Bannister.
The Panners had completed a three-game home sweep of the Chugiak Chinooks before prevailing Friday in their first of four games in three days against the fourth-place Pilots (12-13).
“I think we’ve been hot all year, we haven’t really lost too many games,” said Catalano, a University of Oregon freshman from Anaheim, Calif. “I think we’ve got good pitching and good defense, and we’re a pretty resilient team.”
David Edwards benefitted each time on Catalano’s improved swing.
Edwards led off the bottom of the sixth inning with an infield single against Pilots starter Sean Buckle and later came home on Catalano’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Catalano lined a win-sealing single in the eighth to plate Edwards, who had led off by getting walked by Anchorage reliever Dylan Nelson.
“I just came up to him (Nicholson) and asked him what I was doing wrong and he just told me,” Catalano said of his first two plate appearances. “I fixed it in my third at-bat and I got the job done.”
Bannister took care of business for the Panners on the mound. The right-handed freshman from the University of Arizona used a variety of pitches to strike out seven and scatter five hits. He also turned a double play in the top of the second inning.
Bannister, 4-0 in ABL play this season, retired the side in order in the third and the sixth innings and he escaped trouble in the top of the first.
The Pilots had runners at second and third base after Micah Green hit a one-out single and advanced to third on Brody Russell’s two-out double. Bannister squelched the threat by getting Kevin Garcia to ground out to Panners shortstop David Fletcher.
“You’ve just got to take it pitch-by-pitch pretty much with every hitter,” Bannister said. “Just pound the (strike) zone and let the defense work on it; and if you do that, usually good things work.”
The Panners’ offense started to work in the bottom of the fifth after Buckle had kept them scoreless, including retiring the sides in order in the bottom of the second and fourth.
In the fifth, the Panners took advantage of control problems by the Anchorage left hander to load the bases with no outs and produce their first run without getting a hit.
Fletcher batted into a double play to bring home lead-off batter Nolan Meadows, who had reached base on an error by Pilots first baseman Kewby Meyer. Meadows took second on a wild pitch to Jim Sinatro, who was later walked, and Meadows advanced to third on a walk to Rick Reigner.
Buckle, a sophomore from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and the first of four Pilots pitchers Friday, took the loss after a six-inning stint. Buckle (2-2) allowed two runs, six hits and two walks, and struck out four.
Pilots teammate Meyer spoiled the Panners’ shutout bid in the top of the ninth with a two-out RBI single off of Alaska reliever Kevin Sprague.
Designated hitter Casey Munoz led the Panners with two hits and Meyer had a game-high three for the Pilots.