Walla Walla overcame a six-run Kelowna second inning, got scoreless relief pitching from its bullpen over the last seven innings, and pulled off a two-run, ninth-inning rally to defeat the Falcons, 7-6, at Borleskes Stadium on Wednesday night in West Coast League baseball action.
“The day we hit, we don’t pitch. The day we pitch (Tuesday’s 3-2 loss), we don’t hit,” Sweets manager Frank Mutz said. “Today, we had a mixture. We hit early and pitched late and it worked out.”
The Sweets used a sun-aided two-run double from Jordan Hovey to spark a three-run first inning and grab a 3-0 lead after one.
Trent Sellers, the Sweets starting pitcher out of Washington State, struck out the side in the first, but ran into trouble in the second.
A bases-loaded, three-run double to left by Tylor Nixon tied it at 3-3 and before the dust settled, the Falcons had sent 11 players to the plate and collected seven hits to score six runs and take back the lead at 6-3 after two.
“One hit was lost in the sun, one hit was a jam shot,” Mutz said of the Falcons’ big second inning. “It was kind of bad luck. In baseball, when that starts rolling, you have to take him (Sellers) out. Trent has a good arm. He’ll learn from it and will have a great career at WSU.”
Enter the bullpen of Sam Reed and Ryan Johnston, which gave the Sweets a chance to battle back.
“I don’t have to motivate or keep us focused,” Mutz said of the rally. “They (the Sweets) want to play and win for themselves and for the community.”
Tate Soderstrom delivered a run with a sac fly in the third to make it 6-4 after three.
Danny Sinatro led off the Sweets eighth with a single.
The Sweets moved him around and Sinatro scored his third run of the game on Johnston’s ground out.
In the interim, Reed came on in relief of Sellers and got the last out of the second. Reed retired seven consecutive Falcons before handing the ball off to Johnston to start the fifth.
Johnston worked five scoreless innings, allowing only one hit while striking out five.
“They usually bring me in for a couple of innings to get some outs,” reliever Johnston said. “Today, I had my stuff and they left me in. My curve ball and changeup were working. It kept them (Kelowna) off balance. I had to attack batters and let my defense do the work. Today it worked out and I was able to give us hope and keep us in the game.”
After Johnston ended his stretch on the mound with consecutive strikeouts in the top of the ninth, the Sweets came to bat down 6-5 in the home ninth.
Ben Fariss was sent in to pinch hit to lead off the home ninth. Fariss took the first pitch he saw from Cal Hehnke, who had closed the Falcons’ Tuesday win, and lifted it high and deep over the left-field wall to tie the game at 6-6.
“Ben was in the ’pen getting ready to pitch,” Mutz said. “He made me look good. It was exciting when it left the park.”
“I was in the bullpen warming up and was not expecting to hit,” Fariss said. “But I got the call. I thought there was a good chance he would throw a first-pitch fastball. My teammates told me he threw 90, but it was a straight fastball. He threw inside, I took it that way and squared it up. It was a full upper-cut swing.”
Quentin LaFontaine drew a walk and Darius Vines ran for him. Vines reached second on a Falcon error, and got to third on Patrick Caulfield’s sac bunt.
The Falcons walked Sinatro intentionally to load the bases and bring Nick Nyquist to the plate with the game-winner at third and no outs.
Nyquist hit a fly ball deep enough to left to allow Vines to tag and score the winning run.
The Sweets and Falcons tee it up tonight at 6:35 in the rubber match of the series.
“We’re coming out to win and have fun,” Fariss added.
Sweets 7, Falcons 6
Churby, Aiken (6), Hehnke (() and Samperi; Sellers, Reed (2), Johnston (5) and Prizina.
HR — WW: Fariss.
Hits — Kel: Voelzke, Todosichuk, Tinglestad, Soper 2, Wright 2, Nixon; WW: Hovey 2, Lopez, Nyquist 2, Sinatro, Fariss.