Pippins Clinch Playoff Berth Despite Loss to Corvallis
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Yakima Valley Pippins may have been outscored, outhit, and outplayed by the Corvallis Knights in their regular season finale on Sunday night, but there was a silver lining to the result. Using their overall record as the key tiebreaker, the Pippins were able to overcome a 7-3 loss to Corvallis to clinch the second playoff berth in the West Coast League South over the Cowlitz Black Bears, even though Cowlitz finished a game ahead of the Pippins in the second half, to setup a rematch of last year’s WCL South Divisional Round Playoff against Corvallis beginning on Tuesday night.
As far as the game itself, the Pippins (15-12, 28-26) got off to a fast start, plating a pair of runs in the top of the second inning on an RBI single from J.T. Strickler (Lower Columbia College) and got another when Connor White (Portland) scored on a wild pitch.
The 2-0 lead lasted only until the bottom of the fourth, when Corvallis (16-10, 33-20) scored six runs on five hits off of Pippins’ reliever, Matt Driver (Yakima Valley), to take a 6-2 lead. Yakima Valley cut into the deficit with a run in the fifth inning via Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist) RBI single to score Dustin Yates (Washington State), who had began the frame with a double.
The Knights did not take long to respond, stretch their lead back to four with a run in the bottom of the sixth, as they cruised to a 7-3 win in their final regular season home game in front of a crowd of 2,254 at Goss Stadium.
Game Notes: Liam Herlihy (Linfield College) made his first start for the Pippins and pitched three scoreless frames and struck out four while not factoring into the decision. Driver took his second loss to fall to 0-2. Will Adair (Cal Poly-SLO) and Yates also pitched scoreless innings of relief for the Pippins.
Dom Baker (Corban U) worked six innings while allowing just three runs for Corvallis, and earned his first win to improve to 1-0. As a pitching staff, the Knights held the Pippins under ten hits for the first time in their six meetings this season.
What It Means: With their win Corvallis takes the season series 4-2 after also winning two of three games played in Yakima from July 22 to 24. The Knights now lead the all-time series 11-10 including a 6-5 mark at home. The Pippins dominated most of the season series offensively, with Sunday marking the first time in six games that Corvallis out-hit Yakima Valley. The Pippins ultimately left 58 runners on in the six games, however, and let two seventh-inning leads slip away in the opening game to each of the two series.
With the loss, the Pippins finish the regular season at 28-26 which included a 13-14 record in the first half and a 15-12 second half mark. The 28 wins are the fewest the Pippins have had in a single-season in franchise history, surpassing the 29 wins they collected in 2015, now the only season in their four-year run when they did not make the postseason. Additionally, the Pippins finished just 11-16 on the road this season, by far their worst single-season mark. Their previous low for road wins had been when they went 15-12 in 2015. The Pippins were dominant at home, however, finishing with the second best home mark in the league at 17-10, which also matched their 17 home wins in 2014 as the most in a single-season in franchise history.
After their victory tonight, Corvallis is currently 33-20 and 16-10 in the second half after a 17-10 mark in the first half. They have a chance to match their 34-20 record from a year ago if they can win their final game of the season at Wenatchee tomorrow night.
How The Pippins Clinched: The Pippins clinched via a second half tiebreaker based on overall record. The Cowlitz Black Bears, who finished with a 27-27 overall record and a 16-11 mark in the second half, ended up tying Corvallis with a 16th win with a 13-10 victory over Bend on Sunday. However, Corvallis owned the head-to-head season tiebreaker at four games to two, in large part because of their sweep over Cowlitz in Longview in their first series of the season, from June 2 to June 4. As a result, Corvallis, who won the first half with a 17-10 mark, automatically wins the second half regardless of the result of their final game against Wenatchee on Monday, by virtue of matching Cowlitz with 16 wins tonight. The WCL Playoff dictate that if one team wins both the first and second half of the WCL season, as Corvallis just did, then the team with the next best overall record clinches the second playoff berth, meaning the Pippins, who finished 28-26, own the overall record tiebreaker over Cowlitz by a game.
End of Season Individual Record Keeping: There were many spectacular individual performances throughout the Yakima Valley Pippins’ 2017 WCL season. Tora Otsuka (San Diego), who did not play on Sunday, finished the season riding a 13-game hitting streak and hit safely in his final 14 road contests. Additionally, Otsuka reached base in the team’s final 27 games, the longest mark in Pippins’ franchise history and the second longest in the WCL this season. Otsuka, who started the season 4 for 28, hit safely in 20 of his final 21 games, and batted .433 (36 for 83) over that span, while finishing at a .332, tied for seventh in the WCL. He also finished with 14 multi-hit games, tied with Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) for the team lead. Additionally, Otsuka produced the Pippins’ first grand slam since 2014 on July 29 against Port Angeles.
Sordahl, who ended up starting 41 games for the Pippins in center-field, had a stretch of five multi-hit games that lasted from June 27 to July 2, a stretch where he collected a trio of three-hit games and batted .542 (13 for 24). Sordahl also delivered the biggest hit of the Pippins’ season on Saturday night against Corvallis, when he delivered a go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) two-run double in the top of the ninth inning to propel the Pippins to a 6-5 win that kept their season alive.
Lucas Denney (Seattle U), whose eight home runs were the fourth most in the WCL and whose 34 RBI led the Pippins, produced several huge performances, including a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the tenth inning of a Pippins’ 10-6 road win against Gresham on June 26. Denney’s finest performance of the regular season, however, came on July 12 at Victoria, when he went 4 for 4 with two home runs, the first multi-home run game for a Pippins batter since August 9, 2014. Denney finished sixth in the WCL in hitting at .338.
Other notable regular season performances included Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) who led the Pippins with 45 starts, and began the season by hitting safely in the team’s first 13 games, matching Otsuka for the longest hitting streak on the team this season. Ellis produced the Pippins’ only walk-off of the regular season when he hit a bases clearing double in the bottom of the ninth against Kelowna on July 2. Ellis also finished the season having reached base safely in 18 consecutive games.
Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) had a red-hot start to his Pippins’ campaign, as after he went 0 for 4 in his Pippins debut on June 18 against Kelowna, he hit safely in 13 of his next 14 games, while raising his average as high as .392 on July 3. Beesley also hit one of the most crucial home runs for the Pippins during the regular season, when he hit a solo-shot with two outs in the top of the eighth inning in a 1-0 Pippins win over Cowlitz on August 1.
Dillon Plew (Washington State), who did not travel with the team on their season-ending six-game road trip, produced 13 multi-hit games, the second most on the team, and hit a crucial go-ahead three-run home run in a June 28 win for the Pippins over Bend. Plew also gave the Pippins an ability to play multiple infield positions, as he started at least ten games at first, second and third base.
Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) tied Sordahl for the team-lead with five three-hit games and solidified himself atop the Pippins batting order, starting 14 of the Pippins’ last 15 games. DeLuca ultimately stole 11 of 12 bases, finishing one shy of Otsuka for the team lead.
Of note among other Pippins’ batters during the regular season, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada), finished the season having hit safely in nine of his last ten games, and hit at a .394 clip (13 for 33) after having collected just three hits in his prior 36 at-bats. Chase Wells (Seattle U) provided one of the Pippins’ biggest hits of the regular season when he hit a three-run go-ahead blast in the fifth inning against Bend on June 27. Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist) had a stretch in mid-July where he tallied a six-game hitting streak with four multi-hit contests, including a go-ahead single in the top of the eight inning on July 15 in Bellingham to propel the Pippins to a 5-4 road win. Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton) came on strong at the end of the regular season with three multi-hit games in his last six after tallying just two in his 20 contests. Dustin Yates (Washington State) tallied four multi-hit games and hit the Pippins’ 25th home run of the season, a two-run line-drive blast down the right field line at Yakima County Stadium on July 19 against Wenatchee, that broke the Pippins’ single-season franchise record of 24 that was set back in their inaugural season of 2014.
As far as the pitching, closer Connor White (Portland) solidified himself as one of the best relievers in the entire WCL, leading the league with 11 saves and holding a 1.13 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 14 walks. White did not allow a run in his last 14 1/3 innings worked over his last 11 appearances of the regular season and blew just two save opportunities. He also worked himself out of a bases-loaded jam in an 8-5 win for the Pippins over Bend on July 25, a game in which he walked the first three batters of the ninth before striking out the next three to earn the win.
Left-handed reliever, Pete Minella (Western Illinois), who made his Pippins debut on July 1, was rock solid for the Pippins over the course of the regular season, as he allowed just three earned runs in his 28 2/3 innings of work, while striking out 21 and walking just four.
Taylor Dollard (Cal Poly-SLO), who made his Pippins WCL debut a little more than a month ago on June 26 against Gresham, was superb over the course of the regular season, winning six of his seven appearances while holding a 1.92 ERA. In his 32 2/3 innings of work, Dollard has struck out 24 and walked just five, while finishing tied for the WCL-lead with six wins. Dollard is the only pitcher among the four with six wins who did not suffer a loss. His finest outing was his most recent one, when he threw eight scoreless innings against Cowlitz on August 1, in a huge game that kept the Pippins’ playoff hopes alive. Dollard struck out a Pippins’ individual pitcher season-high nine batters and allowed just two hits in the game. His 1.92 ERA finished as the second-lowest among WCL pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched.
A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa), who led the WCL with 65 innings pitched and 11 starts, was masterful over the course of his final five outings, picking two wins over 29 2/3 innings of work, with a 2.47 ERA. He ultimately dropped his ERA from 5.01 after a loss to Kelowna on July 1 all the way to 3.84, following his latest outing against Corvallis on August 5.
Anthony Alvarado (Columbia Basin) pitched a complete game shutout in his first start of the season for the Pippins against Port Angeles on July 30, the first complete game shutout for a Pippins’ pitcher since July 8, 2016.
What’s Next: Corvallis will play the final game of their regular season on Monday night, a makeup contest from a game that was postponed a few days back against Wenatchee due to weather, before heading to Yakima for game one of the WCL South Divisional Round Playoff Series.
A Chance for Revenge: This year’s matchup will be a rematch of last year’s divisional round, when Corvallis swept the Pippins by winning 4-2 in game one at Yakima County Stadium before completing the sweep with a 7-3 win at Goss Stadium in game two. Corvallis ultimately went on to take two out of three games against Bellingham en route to their fourth championship. A fifth championship this season would tie them with Wenatchee for the most in WCL history.
Meanwhile, the Pippins are seeking their first playoff win in their four-year franchise history. In addition to last year’s sweep at the hands of Corvallis, the Pippins were swept in two games in their inaugural season of 2014 by the Bellingham Bells, who also went on to win the WCL title that season.
The Pippins’ quest for their first playoff victory begins on Tuesday night. The Pippins will host game one before heading back to Corvallis for games two and three (if necessary) on Wednesday and Thursday. All of the Pippins’ postseason games can be heard on KUTI AM-1460 ESPN Yakima and via the online stream right here http://pippinsbaseball.com/media/listen-live/ with Jack Benjamin, the voice of the Pippins, calling all of the play-by-play. The Dairy Farmers of Washington Pregame Show starts roughly 10-15 minutes prior to first pitch with the Stewart Subaru Postgame Show following the game’s final out.
First pitch for game one of the WCL South Divisional Round Playoff Series is set for 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday from Yakima Count 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 June 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.