The Walla Walla Sweets got it done for the second night in a row against Kelowna, beating the Falcons 4-0 with help from Sweets pitchers recording 15 strikeouts in West Coast League baseball action here at Borleske Stadium on a pivotal Wednesday night.
Regardless of the Sweets victory, it was actionally a Corvallis win at Bellingham on Wednesday that clinched for Walla Walla a spot in the postseason as South Division wild card.
Already having been the first-half division frontrunner, Corvallis added the second-half title with its win Wednesday — keeping second-place Portland four games back with four games left in the regular season, and owning their tiebreaker — so the wild card went to Walla Walla (29-21 overall) having the best remaining full-season record.
Ridgefield is closest, six games back.
Ty Hueckman went down as the winning pitcher against Kelowna as he took the mound in the fourth inning and went on to record three of the strikeouts over his two innings of work. He gave up two hits and walked one batter.
Bradye Hirai started the game for the Sweets and pitched three innings, recording four strikeouts while giving up one hit without any walks.
Jake Dahle came on in the seventh, struck out three batters, walked two and gave up no hits.
Reid Sebby pitched the last two innings, struck out a game-high five batters and gave up no hits as well.
“(Our pitchers) struck out 15 tonight,” Sweets manager Frank Mutz said. “They just attacked, attacked and attacked, and I’m really pleased.
“We talked before the game,” Mutz said. “We’ve got to cut the walks down. We had four walks, but 15 strikeouts, so they were around the plate — and a couple of those walks were borderline strikes, too, I thought.”
Having clinched a ticket to the playoffs, the Sweets next will wrap up their regular season this weekend with a three-game series at Yakima Valley starting on Friday.
The Sweets will then face Corvallis, three-time defending league champ, next week in a best-of-three series starting on Tuesday night here at Borleske.
Walla Walla looks to carry over strong pitching from Wednesday.
“For the most part, the guys did a great job attacking the zone,” Mutz said. “(I’m) really happy with it — and only giving up three hits. That’s the kind of pitching we need to have for the playoffs as well.
“Going into playoffs, we can’t walk people — especially leadoff walks,” Mutz said. “Every time we play Corvallis, we lose one-run, two-run games because we walk people, and we can’t do that. So if we can go out and pitch like we did tonight, we will be tough to beat.”
There weren’t a lot of hits from either team here on Wednesday, each ending with three apiece, but the Sweets still managed to find ways to score.
The first Walla Walla run came in the bottom of the first inning when Parker Price came across home plate after an error by the Falcons catcher to give the Sweets a 1-0 lead.
After the first inning, the two teams would go scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when Ryan Johnston hit a dinger to left field for his only hit of the game to give the Sweets a 2-0 lead.
The Sweets added their final two runs in the sixth when Bryce Vitt scored Patrick Caulfield on a groundout to the shortstop.
Then, Caleb Farmer scored Cesar Lopez on a RBI single to center field for the fourth run of the game.
Sweets 4, Falcons 0
Hummel, Nell (2), Driver (6), Shimashita (8) and Smith; Hirai, Hueckman (4), Dahle (7), Sebby (8) and Farmer
HR — none.
Hits — Kelowna: Fischer, Smith 2. Walla Walla: Farmer, Johnston, Cirillo.