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'Panners win NBC World Series crown

Fairbanks beats Anchorage Glacier Pilots in all-Alaska League final

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2002

WICHITA, Kan. - Blake Gill, a shortstop from Louisiana State, went 4-for-4 and drove in three runs Sunday night, leading the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks to their sixth National Baseball Congress World Series title with an 8-3 victory over the defending champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots.

Fairbanks hadn't won the tournament since 1980. The Goldpanners and their Alaska rivals from Anchorage had been tied for the tournament lead with five championships each.

It was the fourth time the two Alaska teams have met for the championship and the fifth time overall that two Alaska teams have played for the national title. Alaska League teams have won 16 NBC titles since the Glacier Pilots won their first crown in 1969 and nearly 600 former Alaska League players have gone on to play in the major leagues.

Sunday's title tilt was the third straight big game for Gill. On Saturday night, his two-run homer broke a tie as Fairbanks advanced to the final game with a 5-2 win over the Nevada, Mo., Griffons. In Friday's 7-6 quarterfinal victory over Anchorage, he had a two-run double as the Goldpanners rallied from a 6-1 deficit.

Gill, who started the tournament playing in the outfield before being switched to short, was named the most valuable player.

The World Series victory came a year after the death of Gill's mother, and just two weeks after the death of his Louisiana State teammate, Wally Pontiff.

"It's unbelievable," Gill said. "This tournament means a lot more to me than it would normally. There's people who mean a lot to me that are watching over it."

Anchorage took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh when Tommy Caple bunted for a single with two outs and a man on third. But Fairbanks countered with three runs in the bottom of the inning, and three more in the eighth.

Scott Robinson's double after a hit batsman, an error and a run-scoring single by Gill brought home the go-ahead run for the Goldpanners.

Zac Basch, who relieved starter Marc Kaiser with one out in the second, got the win, his third of the tournament. The loss went to Mike Dennison, the second of five Anchorage pitchers.



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