The top of Thursday night’s eighth inning was typical Bellingham baseball.
With the score tied at 2-2 and a runner on first via Walla Walla’s lone error, Bells catcher Cody Pasic squared to bunt against Isaak Gutierrez, the fourth of five pitchers used by the Sweets.
But as Gutierrez delivered, Pasic pulled back his bat and instead lashed the ball down the third baseline and into left field.
Casey Stengel, a Major League legend as player and manager, coined the term “butcher boy” for such a play, although Pasic did more than chop at the pitch.
Regardless, the resulting double helped the visiting Bells eventually defeat the Sweets, 4-2, in West Coast League action at Borleske Stadium.
Bellingham’s Guthrie Morrison followed Pasic and also squared to bunt with runners on second and third and none out, but a passed ball brought Connor Mack in from third with the go-ahead run.
Morrison eventually walked — his third free pass of the evening in addition to being hit by a pitch in the second inning — and Pasic scored the game’s final run on a fielder’s choice.
The Bells excel at “managing” the game, Walla Walla manager Frank Mutz said.
“You make a mistake, they take advantage of it … small ball, they put the ball in play,” Mutz said. “And they throw strikes.
“They do all the little things well.”
Bellingham’s win in the second game of a six-game Sweets homestand put the Bells’ record at 6-5 in the WCL North Division.
Walla Walla, which took a 5-4 game from the Bells a night earlier, slipped to 4-4 in the South.
The teams play the rubber match at 7:05 tonight at Borleske. A fireworks show will follow.
With Walla Walla trailing 1-0, cleanup hitter Nick Nyquist led off the bottom of the fourth frame and singled, the Sweets’ second base hit of the game.
Nyquist eventually notched three consecutive hits, hammering doubles in the sixth and eighth innings.
Jordan Hovey followed Nyquist in the fourth and lifted an RBI double just beyond a leaping Morrison in center field.
Ben Farris, whose single drove in the final score in a pivotal three-run fifth frame an evening earlier, doubled to left-center field to bring in Hovey and give Walla Walla a brief 2-1 advantage.
It seemed that the Sweets had finally figured out Bellingham right-handed starter Nick Hull.
“Then in the fifth he struck out the side,” Mutz noted.
Those K’s were part of a dozen strikeouts for Bellingham pitchers, which was still one short of Walla Walla’s whiff-inducing mound work.
The ninth inning was a “fan” festival, with lefty Haydn King — tabbed as the WCL’s Pitcher of the Week for July 6-16 — striking out the side in the top of the ninth and Bellingham closer Ben Leeper matching that with three strikeouts of his own to end the game.
However, perhaps the most significant strikeouts for Walla Walla pitching came in the fifth inning.
The Bells wasted no time getting to Walla Walla Community College’s Michael Peterson, who came on in relief of starter Zach Penrod.
Ernie Yake opened the fifth with a double.
A hit batter and a walk later, the bases were loaded and Mutz pulled Peterson for lefty Bryce Moyle of Washington State University.
Moyle, who was slated for bullpen work that day, came on to fan two of the three hitters he faced, allowing a lone run on Jack Machtolf’s game-tying ground out to second with one down.
“He looked great, came in and minimized the damage,” Mutz said of Moyle, a native of Carson City, Nev. “What else could you ask of him? He did a super job.”
With Thursday’s setback, the Sweets’ focus “is to win the series” tonight, Mutz said.
Walla Walla will send southpaw Tyson Quolas to the mound for the finale against the Bells.
“We want to go lefty against them tomorrow,” Mutz said.
The homestand continues with Cowlitz coming to Borleske for a trio of games. That South Division series opens at 6:35 p.m. Saturday.
Bells 4, Sweets 2
Hull, Baillie (6), Leeper and Pasic; Penrod, Peterson (5), Moyle (5), Gutierrez (7), King (9) and Teel.
HRs — none.
Hits — Bell: McLain, Yake 2, James 2, Stroup, Pasic 2; WW: Nyquist 3, Hovey, Farris, Filby.