Rain poured everywhere in Fairbanks on Sunday afternoon, except over Growden Memorial Park, where the Alaska Goldpanners finished the regular season 31-12 after dropping their last game at 5-3 to the San Francisco Seals.
“Today was just a baseball game. I mean, their guy threw really well,” said Goldpanners head coach Miles Kizer about Seals starting pitcher Samuel Gomez, who threw six no-hit innings and 12 strikeouts. Gomez was retired after 6 innings after allowing one hit and seven walks.
San Francisco led early after two runs in the second inning and one in the third. Three walks in the bottom of the third inning put Joe Riley on third base and a sacrifice fly from Brandon Leitgeb brought in the first run for the Panners. A leadoff triple and one-run single in the top of the fifth inning made the score 4-1. A stolen base, groundout and sacrifice fly culminated in another Seals run. Braxton Inniss drilled an 0-2 pitch for one-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning and a sacrifice fly allowed Leitgeb to score, but the rally for the Panners stopped there.
Drew Necochea took the loss for the Panners after pitching five innings, allowing eight hits and five runs. Harrison Goebel closed out the game allowing three hits and no runs.
Despite the loss, the game was still full of fanfare, as it was the last Goldpanners game at Growden until next June.
“Both sides we had Kazoos and we were hootin’ and hollerin’ a little bit,” said Goldpanners pitcher Cameron Walker, who watched from the dugout Sunday. “The whole summer has been a blast. The fans were great and it was just a really fun atmosphere.”
For Walker, the summer highlight was the Midnight Sun Game, which was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
This evening the team will fly to Wichita, Kansas, where it will compete in the National Baseball Congress World Series. The tournament draws 30 of the top summer league teams from around the country. Alaska earned its spot in the tournament after winning the Grand Forks International Tournament in British Columbia earlier in the summer. The Panners have not attended since 2016 although they have been invited back since. But early in the summer Kizer knew that if the team were invited this year, they would attend. The difference this year is the team.
“We’re good. We can really pitch. We can really pick it up. We’re a really good club top to bottom,” the head coach said. “We’ll add a couple guys and I’m really excited about what we are looking at going forward.”
The biggest new obstacle the team will be facing will be the weather.
“Baseball is baseball, so I think the biggest thing is just going to be getting used to the weather,” Kizer said. “I mean, you’re talking about 93 to 95 with 100% humidity, so I mean it’s a different animal. We’ll get there a couple days early. They’ll be able to be outside, play catch, move around, do what you need to do outside in it. I mean, you can’t prepare for it any other way than being in it.”
“Kizer is giving me the ball on Thursday so I’m really excited for that,” said Walker, who will be starting Thursday, the first game for Alaska at the NBC tournament.
The Goldpanners opponent and time of their first game has not been announced.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.