The Cowlitz Bears put a damper on the Walla Walla Sweets Fourth of July celebration here at Borleske Wednesday night in West Coast League baseball action.
It took nearly four hours, but the Black Bears overcame a 6-3 deficit to pull out a 7-6 win and deal the Sweets’ first half WCL South Division title hopes a set back.
Corvallis downed Portland 10-2 Wednesday and now holds a one-game edge, 17-6 to 16-7, on the Sweets with only four games left in the first half.
The Sweets tried to get back on the winning track with a Fourth of July brunch special, first pitch was slated for 10:45 this morning, in the rubber match with Cowlitz.
“We have no choice,” Sweets manager Frank Mutz said. “We just have to get back at it.”
Things were good for the Sweets and the holiday crowd of over 1,800 to begin.
Patrick Caulfield stole a run for the Sweets in the first.
Caulfield worked a walk, stole second and third, and scored on Cesar Lopez’ ground out.
The Black Bears’ second proved to be a foreshadowing of what was to come.
The Sweet pitching staff issued four base on balls, Colton Sakamoto knocked in a run with a single, and the Black Bears scored three times on one hit and took over the lead at 3-1 with the Sweets coming to bat in the second.
The fireworks started early as the Sweets exploded for five runs on six hits in the home second.
Jordan Stubbings opened with a double before Michael Petrie tripled home Stubbings and Ryan Johnston picked up Petrie with a single.
Caulfield then doubled home Johnston, and Parker Price followed with a double to drive home Caulfield.
Ben Fariss culminated the explosion with an infield hit to score Price, making it 6-3 Sweets after two.
That was it for the Sweets offense.
Four Cowlitz pitchers combined to blank the Sweets over the last seven innings on only three hits.
Rance Pittman finished the job with three innings of one-hit shut out pitching to ice the 7-6 win.
“If you don’t score, you don’t win,” Mutz summarized. “We got shut out for seven innings by below average pitching. It shows the work we haven’t accomplished.”
The Black Bears just kept pecking away.
They got one in the third on a hit batsman, two stolen bases from Ryan Kim, and a walk to set up a first and third situation.
The Sweets threw out Luke Price on his attempted steal of second, but Kim scored on the play to make it 6-4 Sweets after three.
“We got the lead and couldn’t throw strikes,” Mutz said. “If we throw strikes, we put them away.”
The Sweets used four pitches to try and stop the comeback, but walked eight, five of those coming in the first three innings, and only had one clean (1-2-3) inning, the first.
The Black Bears also walked eight, as both teams combined issued 16 base on balls, and both teams appeared frustrated with the strike zone.
“It wasn’t the umpires,” Mutz commented. “We didn’t execute our pitches.”
Cowlitz kept coming. One more in the fourth on a James Arakawa triple and a Sam Ireland sharp grounder. 6-5 after four.
The Sweets got a Petrie single in the third, a Caulfield single in the fourth, and a Chazz Martinez double in the seventh, but could never string together hits to score.
In the top of the seventh, the Black Bears got all the way back.
Austin Bell belted a lead-off shot that just got over the right field fence and Cowlitz was even at 6-6.
The Black Bears got singles from Beckstead and Arakawa in the eighth, and Ireland hit a two-out squibber between first and second to bring home Beckstead with what proved to be the winner.
Down 7-6, the Sweets had their best chance against Pittman in the home eighth.
Johnston and Caulfield both worked walks as Price put down a sac bunt to move Johnston and Caulfield to third and second with only one out.
Pittman got out of it with two pop ups.
Reid Sebby worked a scoreless ninth on the hill for the Sweets thanks to Sweets catcher, Petrie, throwing out his second attempted steal of the night, and Sebby picking off a Black Bear from first base.
The Sweets went in order, for only the second time in the game, the sixth being the only other 1-2-3 inning, and the Sweets woke up this morning one game out of the first half division lead.
Black Bears 7, Sweets 6
Walla Walla150000000 —691
Lauderdale, Rutherford, (2), Dolezal (4), Pittman (7) and Beckstead; Mosiello, Wood (2), Johnson (4)m Sebby (8) and Petrie.
HR — Cowlitz: Bell.
Hits — Cowlitz: Sakamoto, Arakawa 2, Ireland, Kim, Beckstead 2, Bell; WW: Stubbings, Petrie 2, Johnston, Caulfield 2, Price, Fariss, Martinez.