The Kenai Peninsula Oilers had one last chance to stay alive in the National Baseball Congress World Series Thursday night in Wichita, Kan.
Trailing by one run, the Oilers put a runner on third base with two outs and a full count. But batter Jason Walker swung and missed at an inside pitch for strike three, ending Kenai's chances for a fourth NBC title as the Hays (Kan.) Larks claimed an 8-7 victory.
The loss eliminated the second-seeded Oilers, who were the last Alaska League team in the 48-team NBC tournament field. The Oilers finished the tournament in a tie for fifth place.
The only other Alaska League team in the bracket, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, lost both of its games earlier in the tournament and were eliminated a week ago. Juneau's Rob Conway played for the Nevada (Mo.) Griffons, who were eliminated on Wednesday and finished tied for seventh place. Kenai, which won the tournament in 1977, 1993 and 1994, took a 5-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning as Jeremy Reed hit a threerun double and then scored on a double by Hunter Brown.
But the Larks rallied for six runs in the bottom half of the sixth inning as Andy Bushey doubled, Troy Cairns reached on a one-out single and Dustin Hawkins followed with an RBI double to make it 5-3. Jayce Tingler singled in a run and Ed Linck reached on a fielder's choice. Mike Huggins then hit a two-run double and Doug Dreher followed with a tworun homer to make it 8-5 Larks.
Kenai rallied for a run in the eighth, as Brown doubled home Jason Walker, then scored another run in the ninth on a groundout to the pitcher by Brad Carlson that also put baserunner Randall Shelley at third base. But Walker couldn't come through with the hit and Kenai lost.
The tournament only has three teams left alive - the undefeated Liberal (Kan.) BeeJays and the once-beaten Larks and the Lake Erie (Mich.) Monarchs. The Larks and the Monarchs play each other tonight, and the winner plays Liberal in Saturday's championship game. An if-necessary game will follow Saturday night if Liberal should lose the title game.
Since Alaska began sending teams to the NBC tournament in 1962, Alaska League teams have claimed 14 titles starting with the 1969 Anchorage Glacier Pilots. The Goldpanners have the most titles with five (1972-1974, 1976 and 1980), while the Pilots have four (1969, 1971, 1986 and 1991), the Oilers have three and the Mat-Su Miners have two championships (1987 and 1997).