Bullpen Guides Pippins to Bounce-Back Win
YAKIMA, Wash. – In the first two games of their series with the Corvallis Knights, the Yakima Valley Pippins’ bullpen had been unable to contain Corvallis, leading to a pair of close defeats. That had to change if the Pippins were to win on Monday, when Pete Minella (Western Illinois) was summoned into the ballgame in the third inning, after starter Taylor Dollard (Cal Poly-SLO) had to leave the game with an injury. Minella, who had been brilliant for the Pippins up to Monday, was terrific again, this time over five innings, as he helped the Pippins to a 5-3 win to salvage the series.
Corvallis (28-17, 11-7), looking for the series sweep, started fast against Dollard, pushing a run across in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. The Pippins (21-21, 8-7) responded immediately in the bottom of the frame, however. Tora Otsuka (San Diego) led off the bottom of the first with a single, and then came around to score on a Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) triple to right field, which tied the game at 1. Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) then followed Beesley by doubling to right-center, giving the Pippins a 2-1 lead. The Pippins added a third run in the frame when Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton) legged out an infield single to plate DeLuca from third and give the Pippins a 3-1 lead.
Corvallis, as they had done in the first two games of the series, chipped away at the deficit, scoring a run in the second inning to make it a 3-2 game. After Dollard left with an apparent blister on his throwing hand in the second inning, Minella came on in relief in the third and served up a solo home run on the first pitch he threw to Dillan Shrum (Nevada) which tied the game at 3.
Minella quickly settled down, and proceeded to retire 10 of the next 12, including eight in a row at one point between the fourth and sixth innings.
It was in the sixth inning that the Pippins finally broke the stalemate, as after Otsuka drew a two-out walk and stole second, he was able to come around and score on a Beesley hot-shot to third that bounced off the glove of the Corvallis third baseman, Zak Taylor (Oregon State) and rolled toward the middle of the infield. Otsuka, taking nothing for granted with two outs, was able to motor all the way home from second base to give the Pippins a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the eight inning, looking for insurance, Otsuka provided another spark for the Pippins, as after Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) had advanced all the way to third base following his one out single, Otsuka drilled a groundball down the third base line that was kept in the infield by Taylor with a sensational diving grab, but he could not throw out Otsuka.
Ellis’ insurance run gave the Pippins a 5-3 lead headed to the top of the ninth inning. The Pippins brought out closer Connor White (Portland) to try and collect his eighth save, which he did in style, striking out two of three batters to retire the side and preserve the Pippins’ 5-3 victory.
Game Notes: Dollard, who left the game after the second inning due to discomfort from a blister on his hand, allowed a run on three hits while walking one and striking out one and did not factor into the decision. It was the first time in Dollard’s six appearances this season that he did not earn the win in a game he appeared in. He had been 5-0 over five games pitched. Dollard’s two innings of work match the shortest outing ever recorded by a Pippins’ starter for the fifth time. Minella pitched five strong innings while allowing a lone run, Shrum’s homer on his first pitch, and striking out three en route to picking up his second win to improve to 2-0. White earned his eighth save, which is still one shy of Victoria’s Travis Kuhn, who earned the save in the HarbourCats’ win over tonight, for the most in the WCL. Corvallis’ Hazahel Quijada (UC Riverside) allowed the go-ahead run after coming on for the Knight’s starter, Louis Crow (San Diego) in the sixth, and picked up his third loss to drop to 1-3.
Otsuka collected his ninth multi-hit game and fourth of three hits or more. He is 19 for his last 37 (.513) after starting the season 2 for 19, and his average is up to a season-high .324. His stolen base was his ninth of the season, which leads the team. Beesley recorded his fourth consecutive multi-hit contest and his 11th this season. After a recent 5 for 36 spell that saw his average drop all the way to .264 on July 19, Beesley is 11 for his last 19 and was 9 for 16 in the three-game series.
The Pippins out-hit Corvallis in all three games of the series by a total margin of 45 to 31 but only won one of three games. Still, the Pippins were able to fend off being swept at home for the first time in franchise history by salvaging the final game.
What It Means: With the win, the Pippins remain four games back in the WCL South second half standings of the red-hot Cowlitz Black Bears, who won their fifth straight game, a 2-1 triumph over Walla Walla to complete the sweep on Monday. The Pippins also remain two back of Cowlitz in overall record.
With the loss, Corvallis falls to 2.5 back of Cowlitz in the second half. Ultimately, the second half does not matter nearly as much for the Knights, who have already locked up a playoff spot by winning the first half.
What’s Next: Corvallis will get Tuesday off before hosting Gresham for a three-game set beginning on Wednesday. The two teams will meet for the second and final time this season when the Pippins close out their 2017 WCL slate with a trip to Goss Stadium from August 4 to 6.
Yakima Valley will travel to Bend to begin a three-game set on Tuesday night. Right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa, 2-3, 4.24 ERA), is set to make his ninth start for the Pippins. Landis was dominant his last time out, holding Wenatchee to one run over 6 2/3 innings last Thursday en route to earning his second win.
First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. from Vince Genna Stadium.
ABOUT THE PIPPINS: The Yakima Valley Pippins compete in the West Coast League, one of the nation’s premier summer collegiate wood bat leagues. The Pippins play their home games at Yakima County Stadium (“The Orchard”) in Yakima, Washington. After winning 96 games during their first three seasons in the WCL, the Pippins set the mark as the winningest WCL expansion team after three years, and won their 100th game on July 13, 2017, to become the third-fastest WCL franchise to reach 100 wins. Yakima County Stadium recently played host to the 2017 West Coast League All-Star Game and includes an extensive 31-game home season for Year No. 4 of Pippins' Baseball in 2017. Read more online at PippinsBaseball.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube with #ThatWasAwesome.