FAIRBANKS—Alaska Goldpanners manager Jim Dietz said he thought Tuesday’s nonleague baseball game against the Everett Merchants could have ended in his team’s favor or worked out for the visitors from Everett, Wash.
The 15th-year manager was relieved that the outcome at Growden Memorial Park favored his team.
The Goldpanners of the Alaska Baseball League rallied for a 7-5 victory after trailing 5-4 through the first 4 1/2 innings in the opener of the three-game series that culminates Thursday with the 107th annual Midnight Sun Game at 10:30 p.m.
“This was an exciting game tonight, it could have turned either way,” Dietz said of Tuesday’s contest. “There were some great plays. It’s exciting baseball when you get kids hustling like this.”
Chris Lee turned the game in the Goldpanners’ favor with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The designated hitter from Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., took a curveball from Merchants starting pitcher Brooks Roy and sent it to left field to drive home Chris Torres and Joey Epperson.
Torres reached base on a one-out walk and Epperson followed with a double to center field.
“I was looking for something up to drive,” said Lee, who finished the night 2 for 3. “I took a swing on it and it got for two RBI.
“It was a huge momentum thing. The Merchants are a very good team and we clutched up and got the win,” Lee said.
The Goldpanners outhit the Merchants 13-9 while raising their overall record to 2-3. The Goldpanners started the season with three straight losses to the Peninsula Oilers before winning Sunday’s finale of the ABL series in Kenai.
Second baseman Michael Zeblo capped a 3-for-3 night and provided insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out double to score Matt Nadolski, who had reached on a walk.
Epperson finished 2 for 4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Designated hitter Nate Mullins led the Merchants at the plate, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored. Everett was 5-4 overall heading into its Alaska trip, which began Monday in Anchorage against the Bucs.
Garrett Wilson, the second of four Goldpanners pitchers, earned the win Tuesday while Ray took the loss. Patrick McGrath earned the save in the ninth, where he struck out two and hit a batter.
Host families needed
The Goldpanners, despite being in the second week of their season, are still seeking host families for players.
Dietz said the team needs about six families to help out for the next three weeks.
“We’re going to have send players home if we don’t get it,” Dietz said.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.