Pippins Punchless Late, Head To Decisive Game 3 Tonight In WCL Playoff
The Yakima Valley Pippins dominated the Corvallis Knights at home for a 9-3 victory in game one of their West Coast League South Divisional Round Series on Tuesday night. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Knights staved off elimination with a late rally in game two on yesterday, earning an 8-4 victory to set up a decisive game three with the Pippins tonight, with the winner set to advance to the West Coast League Championship Series.
After producing just three runs in game one, Corvallis (1-1, 35-21) matched that output in the bottom of the second inning of game two, plating three runs on four hits off Pippins’ starter, Pete Minella (Western Illinois).
The Pippins (1-1, 29-27) were able to answer right away in the top of the third inning, however. After J.T. Strickler (Lower Columbia) began the frame with a walk, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) singled and then advanced to second base on an error by the left fielder, with Strickler moving to third. After Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) struckout, Tora Otsuka (San Diego) hit a soft grounder just past the pitchers’ mound that Corvallis starter, Trenton Toplikar (UC Riverside) bobbled momentarily, enabling Otsuka to beat out the throw to first and enabling Strickler to come home to make the score 3-1. A few pitches later, with Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) batting, a wild pitch enabled Bosetti to come home from third to cut the deficit to one for Yakima Valley at 3-2. Beesley then flew out to left to score Otsuka on a sacrifice fly to give the Pippins a three-run frame that knotted the score at 3.
After Minella held the Knights scoreless in the third inning, Corvallis regained the lead in the home half of the fourth, plating a run on an RBI double from Chad Stevens (Portland) to take a 4-3 lead.
The score stayed that way until the top of the sixth, when the Pippins were finally able to respond. After Beesley began the frame with a single to center, Lucas Denney (Seattle U) walked, bringing up Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) with runners on first and second base and no one out. Ellis laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line, that he nearly legged out for an infield single, to give the Pippins the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second base with one out for Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s). Sordahl proceeded to hit a soft grounder to second base, which plated Beesley and tied the score at 4.
The Knights, not willing to conceded momentum, answered the bell once again in the sixth inning. After Pippins’ right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa) quickly collected the first two outs of the frame, the Knights mounted a two out rally, stringing together four consecutive hits and then a sacrifice fly to plate two more runs and take a 6-4 lead.
After a pair of quiet frames for the Pippins offensively in the seventh and eighth innings, the Knights went to work in the bottom of the eighth, tacking on two crucial insurance runs off Pippins’ reliever, Liam Herlihy (Linfield), to take a commanding 8-4 lead to the top of the ninth inning.
Facing Corvallis left-hander, Hazahel Quijada (UC Riverside), Sordahl drew a leadoff walk, but that was ultimately all the Pippins could muster up in the final frame, as Quijada struck out Strickler and Bosetti to earn the save and secure the 8-4 victory for Corvallis to force a decisive game three on Thursday night.
What’s Next: The decisive game three of the series is tonight. The Pippins’ starter has yet to be determined. Connor Redmond (Cal Poly-SLO, 1-2, 3.72 ERA) is set to make his sixth start for Corvallis. Redmond has been impressive this season, as he has struck out 22 and walked just five over 29 innings of work this season.
The winner of Thursday’s contest will meet the Victoria HarbourCats, who completed a sweep of the Kelowna Falcons with an impressive 11-5 win in game two of the North Division Playoffs, in the WCL Championship Series, which will begin on Saturday. Home field advantage for the series depends on who is to win Thursday’s game. If the Pippins win, they would host game one of the series before heading to Victoria for games two and three (if necessary).
The Pippins are seeking their first ever appearance in the WCL Championship Series. Corvallis is seeking their ninth, while also trying to win their fifth championship, which would tie the Wenatchee AppleSox for the most in WCL history.
You can hear the game LIVE on 1460 ESPN Yakima (KUTI-AM) with Jack Benjamin calling the play-by-play.