Streaking Pippins Roll to Sweep, 5th Straight Win
YAKIMA, Wash. – On June 20, the Yakima Valley Pippins were reeling after a second walkoff loss in four games, and had dropped four straight to sit dead last at four games back in the West Coast League South Division standings. A little more than a week later, the Pippins are now the hottest team in the West Coast League. After another offensive barrage on Thursday featuring a four-run 1st inning, a season-high 16 hits, ten runs, and lots of timely hitting, the Pippins rolled to a 10-5 win over the Bend Elks to complete the sweep and win their fifth straight game.
The Pippins (12-11), who had been a notoriously slow-starting team all season long, as they had scored first in only seven of 22 games entering Thursday, wasted no time in getting on the board in the bottom of the 1st against the Elks’ left-handed starter, Grant Larson (Chico State). After Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) reached on an error with one out, Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) grounded out to first, moving DeLuca into scoring position. It was then that the offensive eruption began, as Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton) singled in DeLuca for the game’s first run. After a Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) single, Tora Otsuka (San Diego) did not seem a bit fazed by the left-on-left matchup, as he roped a double over the left-fielder’s head to plate both Cope and Ellis for a 3-0 Pippins lead. Dustin Yates (Washington State) joined in on the fun two batters later after a Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) walk, roping a single to right field to plate Otsuka for the icing on the cake of a four run 1st.
In the 4th, the Pippins went to work again, this time getting a double off the wall in left-center from Beesley to plate DeLuca, who had singled to begin the frame, to take a 5-0 lead into the 5th. It was in that frame that Bend (10-14) started their comeback, plating two runs against Pippins starter, Cullen Kafka (Oregon), and adding another after Kafka left the game in the 6th, to cut the deficit to 5-3. The Pippins had the answer, however, scoring two more runs in the home half of the frame on a Beesley single and a throwing error to stretch the lead back to four at 7-3. Bend then came back with a run of their own in the top of the 7th off Pippins reliever, Kyle Nicol (Cal State Northridge), to cut the deficit to three.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Pippins answered the bell with a two-out rally once again, as after the Pippins loaded the bases with two outs on a Beesley single and two walks, Sordahl drilled a single into left-center to plate two runs and stretch the Pippins lead back to its biggest of the night at five runs. The Pippins tacked on one more in the frame as Otsuka, who drew a walk earlier in the inning, came home on a wild pitch to give the Pippins a three-run 8th for a commanding 10-4 lead.
Nicol experienced a minor hiccup in the top of the 9th when Bend second baseman, Jaylon McLaughlin (Nevada), drilled a two-out home run over the field wall, but he was able to settle down and retire the next batter to earn the save on three innings of work and complete the sweep.
Game Notes: Kafka improved to 1-2 and earned his first win of the season in his third start, throwing five innings while allowing two earned runs on six hits, while striking out three and not walking a batter. Anthony Alvarado (Columbia Basin) pitched the 6th inning for the Pippins and allowed a run. Nicol, who threw three innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out two and walking one earned the save, his second in his last three appearances. The two earned runs were his first two allowed in his last three outings, an impressive turnaround from his 13 runs allowed over his first four appearances of the season, which included when he allowed a Pippins record eight earned runs on June 12 against Wenatchee.
Otsuka, who began the season 5 for his first 31, and had only three RBI in his first nine WCL games, is now 6 for his past 18 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI. The three hit outing was his first of the season. With two more hits in four at-bats including 3 RBI on Thursday, Sordahl finished the series 8 for 13 with a home run and 5 RBI, a season high hits total for a Pippins batter in a three game series. Plew recorded a hit in five at-bats, finishing the series 7 for 15 with a home run and 6 RBI. With three hits on the night, Beesley produced his fifth multi-hit game in just his tenth start, while DeLuca recorded two hits for the third time in seven starts. After not producing a single multi-hit outing in his first 11 starts, Yates has done so in two of his past three games.
The Pippins’ 16 hits were a season-high, with a large percentage of their damage coming with two outs. In all, eight of their runs were produced with two outs, an impressive number especially when considering the Pippins entered the series hitting .224 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
With the win, the Pippins have moved over .500 for the first time since they held a 3-2 record after defeating Bellingham 9-5 on June 6. The Pippins have now won five in a row for the first time since they started 6-0 to open the 2016 campaign. The Pippins also swept a series for the first time since defeating the Wenatchee AppleSox three straight times on the road to open the 2016 season. The sweep of Bend was their first at Yakima County Stadium since they swept the Klamath Falls Gems from June 3 to June 5 in 2015. The Pippins have also now won four straight home games for the first time since July 5 to July 13 of 2016. The Pippins longest home winning streak in franchise history was six games, set in their inaugural season of 2014.
Standings Look: With the win, the Pippins are now just 1.5 games back of the Corvallis Knights in the WCL South Division standings, the closest they have been since June 7, when they were also 1.5 back. With the loss, Bend falls to four games back and has now dropped three in a row.
Looking Ahead: Bend will try to regroup when they head back home to begin a three game set on Friday with Port Angeles, who currently holds the longest active losing streak in the WCL at six games. The Elks will have a chance to get revenge on the Pippins when the two teams meet again for a three game set at Vince Genna Stadium from July 25 to July 27. The Pippins will play their third non-league game of four this season on Friday night against the Highline Bears. Taylor Dollard (Cal Poly-SLO) is slated to make his second non-league start with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. at Yakima County 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. 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.