Pippins Use Furious Rally to Roll Past HarbourCats
VICTORIA, B.C. – The Yakima Valley Pippins scored in the first inning on Tuesday night for just the ninth time in the 2017 season. A notoriously slow-starting group, the Pippins had to be pleased with their pushing across the first run of the game. Yet, when the first inning had come to a close, the Pippins trailed 6-1, after the Victoria HarbourCats hammered a pair of three-run home runs in the bottom of the frame. Trailing by five on the road after an inning of play, the Pippins began a furious rally until they had tied the game by scoring five unanswered runs by the fifth inning. The Pippins then took the lead and never looked back, and in the end, had scored 11 unanswered runs en route to a 12-6 come-from-behind victory over the HarbourCats in the first game of their three-game series.
The Pippins (15-16, 2-2) got off to a rare fast start, as a pair of singles from Dillon Plew (Washington State) and Tora Otsuka (San Diego) set the stage for a Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) sacrifice fly that scored Plew. The HarbourCats (19-16, 5-3), however, responded immediately against Pippins’ starter, Kade Woods (Spokane Falls CC), as they got two three-run home runs in the frame, one from Andrew Shaps (Chico State) and another from Bryce Bonner (Purdue), to give them a six-run first inning and a 6-1 lead.
Instead of allowing Victoria to pull away, however, the Pippins immediately started to chip away at the deficit in the top of the second, as Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) singled in Dustin Yates (Washington State) and Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist), who had singled and doubled, respectively, to begin the frame, cutting the deficit to 6-3.
After a Lucas Denney (Seattle U) RBI double made it a 6-4 game in the third, the Pippins found a way to knot the score in the fifth. After Otsuka tripled to right field to begin the frame, and DeLuca was hit by a pitch, Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) and Denney provided run-scoring groundouts to tie the game at six.
It seemed as if the HarbourCats were going to take the lead and possibly put a big frame together in the bottom of the fifth, when after a one out double, Noah Prewett (San Diego), laced a single into center field with a speedy pinch-runner, Jake Garella (Saint Louis), at second base. Garella came around third base expecting to score easily when, suddenly, Otsuka had thrown a dart into the mitt of catcher, Tyler Sandoval (Colorado Mesa), who applied the tag at home to get the out and keep the score tied at six.
Not long after, the Pippins took advantage of the Otsuka defensive gem as they regained the lead in the top of the sixth, with a Bosetti sacrifice fly plating Denney, who had singled earlier in the inning. Two more runs came home in the seventh for Yakima Valley, as Yates doubled to right center to bring in Denney before Sandoval singled home Yates, giving the Pippins a 9-6 edge.
In the eighth, the Pippins received an important insurance run via a Beesley towering solo home run off the scoreboard in left field, which gave the Pippins a 10-6 lead.
Leading by four entering the top of the ninth, the Pippins were still not satisfied, as Plaia, who doubled to begin the frame eventually came home to score on a wild pitch before Bosetti, who walked, came around on another DeLuca sacrifice fly, giving the Pippins a two-run ninth and a 12-6 lead.
After some minor trouble, Pete Minella (Western Illinois), who followed the three scoreless innings of relief from the newest Pippins pitcher, Will Adair (Cal Poly-SLO), got the final three outs and secured the Pippins’ 12-6 comeback win in game one of the series.
Game Notes: Woods started and lasted just four innings, in large part due to his having to throw 43 pitches to get through the first inning, in which Victoria scored six runs. Of the six runs Woods allowed, five were earned, meaning he has now allowed five earned runs in his last two starts, and four or more in his last four outings, after allowing four just once in his first three starts. The start was Woods’ second against Victoria and was a much different one than his outing on June 3, in which he allowed just three earned runs over eight innings of work. Adair pitched three scoreless frames to earn the win in his Pippins debut. The Dallas native threw a scoreless fifth, sixth and seventh, and scattered three hits while striking out seven. Minella pitched a scoreless eight and ninth, but due to the large lead, did not factor into the decision. Victoria reliever, Jack Tagget, allowed the Pippins’ go-ahead run in the sixth inning and took the loss to fall to 2-1.
The Pippins had a season-high six players with a multi-hit game (Plew, Otsuka, Denney, Yates, Bosetti-two hits, Plaia-three hits) and the five-run deficit was their largest comeback win of the season, surpassing their four run comeback against Kelowna on July 2, when they trailed by four after the top of the first inning and went on to win 14-13 on a Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) RBI double. The 15 hits tonight were also just one shy of the Pippins’ season-high, set on June 29 at home against Bend.
Beesley’s home run in the eighth inning was his team-leading fourth of the season and first extra-base hit since he hit the latter of back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the eighth with Plew against Kelowna on July 2. The home run was especially impressive given that he had been just one for his last 19 entering the at-bat. The Pippins have now hit 18 home runs as a team in their 31st game played, meaning they are just six shy of their franchise record of 24 set in their inaugural season of 2014.
What It Means: With the win, the Pippins even the season series with Victoria at two games apiece after Victoria took two of three at Yakima County Stadium in the Pippins’ season-opening series from June 2 to June 4. The Pippins also stay three games back of the first place Corvallis Knights in the WCL South and one game clear of the Cowlitz Black Bears for second-best overall record in the South Division, the tiebreaker for a second half playoff berth, should Corvallis win both the first and second half. Even with the loss, Victoria stays tied with Wenatchee atop the WCL North second half standings, as the AppleSox also lost on Tuesday.
What’s Next: Game two of the series is Wednesday night. A battle of left-handers will be in store as John Fuqua (Virginia Military Institute, 0-2, 5.91 ERA) will make his sixth WCL start for the Pippins against Victoria’s Claire Eccles (University of British Columbia, 1-0, 18.69 ERA), who will make her first WCL start. A lively crowd is expected to witness Eccles, a knuckleballer, and the first female player in West Coast League history, making her first league start. She did start in a non-league game against the Kitsap BlueJackets on June 18 and made history with her relief appearance in her HarbourCats debut on June 7. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. on what is expected to be an exciting night at Royal Athletic Park.
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. Yakima County Stadium will play host to the 2017 West Coast League All-Star Game, along with 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