Kevin Hernandez’s right arm did most of the work Thursday night at Growden Memorial Park, but his legs assured the Alaska Goldpanners of a 3-1 victory over the Anchorage Bucs in the Alaska Baseball League game.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Bucs left fielder Chris Raber grounded Hernandez’s full-count pitch toward Goldpanners first baseman Geoff Byrns. Hernandez outsprinted Raber to collect Byrns’ toss and tag the bag for the final out, giving Hernandez a 4-0 record after his first complete game of the season.
“It kept the blood flowing,” Hernandez said of his sprint to first base.
Hernandez’s pitching and a nine-hit attack kept the Goldpanners in an upbeat mood, as they won for the second time in as many games, raising their fifth-place record to 5-7 league and 10-10 overall.
“I think they were more committed tonight,” Alaska manager Ed Cheff said. “The main thing for us is to keep playing hard and hope we get some more good pitching and hitting.”
Hernandez did his part to raise his team’s hopes by scattering five hits and striking out eight while throwing 117 pitches. He mostly used a two-seam fastball and slider, helping him to also throw first-pitch strikes 16 times, including one each to all four batters he faced in the top of the first.
“I wanted to keep the fastball in and the slider away,” said Hernandez, who will be a junior in the fall at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “I wanted it make it hard for them to hit. I didn’t want to give them any free balls.”
Hernandez gave up two walks and also hit a batter, and allowed the Bucs’ only run in the top of the seventh on Raber’s sacrifice grounder, which scored Anchorage catcher Adam Zornes, who had led off with a double to the corner of the left-field wall.
“You’ve got to give him the credit,” Bucs manager Mike Garcia said of Hernandez. “I think he did a good job of throwing strikes.”
Garcia’s team slipped to 9-7 league and 14-8 overall after entering the night in a first-place tie with the Peninsula Oilers and Mat-Su Miners.
“I’m very disappointed in our effort in the batter’s box,” Garcia said. “We batted like we had just got off the bus today, while we actually got here yesterday. We should be a better disciplined team in the batter’s box tomorrow (tonight).”
The Goldpanners were disciplined and effective with their bats Thursday night, led by two hits apiece from left fielder Mike Lissman and center fielder Chu Yuan-Chin, who had a team-high .500 batting average entering the game.
“As long as we keep winning, it doesn’t matter who’s hitting the ball,” said Lissman after a 2-for-4, two-RBI night.
Lissman helped the Panners take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third.
Designated hitter Joe Persichina led off with a single to right field. He advanced to second base on Jovanny Bramasco’s sacrifice bunt and to third on Mark Thompson’s hit to left field and came home one-out later on Lissman’s single to right. Beau Mills sent Bucs starter Zac Ashwood’s one-ball pitch to left center field to drive in Thompson.
Bramasco provided the Panners’ final run two innings later. The second baseman led off with a walk and was moved over the bases by Thompson’s groundout and Chu’s infield hit. Lissman banged his second hit of the night to left field to bring home Bramasco.
Ashwood, a left-hander, took the loss and dropped to 2-3 after allowing three runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth but he also walked two and hit a batter.
Ashwood was replaced by Andrew Liebel, who pitched perfect relief for 1 2/3 innings, including retiring the side in order in the eighth with one strikeout.
Designated hitter Ike Davis was the only Buc with two hits. He led off the top of the ninth with a single to right field, but Hernandez kept him from scoring by getting Zornes and Rylan Sandoval to each fly out and by outrunning Raber to first base.