Pippins Set Home Run Mark, Hold Off AppleSox in Series Opener
YAKIMA, Wash. – The Yakima Valley Pippins hit 24 home runs in their inaugural season of 2014, a number that seemed secure, especially considering the team’s 2015 version hit just nine long balls, while last year’s group his just five. On Wednesday night, the Pippins not only broke their previous record for home runs in a single season, but they did so in style, belting a pair of long balls en route to 5-4 victory over the Wenatchee AppleSox in the opener to their three game series.
The Pippins (18-19, 5-5) did not take long to break the record, as after a Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist) two-out single in the bottom of the second inning, Dustin Yates (Washington State) teed off on a fastball from Wenatchee starter, Hunter Boyd (College of Idaho), and drove a line drive just inside the right-field foul pole to give the Pippins a 2-0 lead and their record-breaking 25th home run of the season.
Meanwhile, the Pippins waited all of an inning to get their 26th homer of the season, as Lucas Denney (Seattle U) led off the third inning in style by drilling a solo home run over the right field fence to give the Pippins a 3-0 lead.
While the power was the story early on, Pippins starter, Taylor Dollard (Cal Poly-SLO) was sensational throughout his outing, as he did not allow an extra base hit until the sixth inning via an Evan Johnson (Northern Colorado) double.
It was in the frame that Wenatchee (21-16, 6-4) finally broke through, as after a hit-by-pitch and a Johnson double, Plaia committed a throwing error on a routine ground ball with two outs that resulted in a pair of runs coming home to make the score 3-2 and trim the deficit to one.
The Pippins missed a pair of key opportunities to pad their lead, first leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning, and then doing the same in the bottom of the sixth.
In the eighth inning, the Pippins threatened again, as after a flyout to begin the frame, Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) walked, and Tora Otsuka (San Diego) singled, making it first and second with one out. With Denney at-bat, the Pippins successfully executed a double-steal on the first pitch, with DeLuca taking third and Otsuka swiping second base to give Denney a pair of runners in scoring position. Wenatchee chose to intentionally walk Denney in order to face the batter due-up, in Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO), who was 0 for 3 on the night. The Pippins opted to have Dillon Plew (Washington State) face off against reliever Michael Spellacy (Gonzaga), however, to get a left-on-right matchup. Plew, coming off an appearance in the 2017 WCL All-Star Game on Monday night, delivered in a big way, lining a base hit into left-center to plate two runs and give the Pippins a 5-2 lead.
After recording the final out in relief of Dollard in the seventh, and throwing a scoreless eighth, Will Adair (Cal Poly-SLO) came on to try to earn the save in the ninth. The inning started well with a pop-out, but then a walk and a single gave Wenatchee first and second with just one out. After another flyout, Jack Reisinger (Seattle U) delivered an RBI single for the AppleSox to cut the deficit to 5-3. Spellacy, who started at shortstop and then came on as a reliever, followed suit by lining a single up the middle to make it a one-run game. With the go-ahead run now on first and still two outs, Adair finally induced a pop-out off the bat of one of the AppleSox All-Stars, Dugan Shirer (Washington State) to earn the save and secure a 5-4 victory for the Pippins.
Game Notes: Dollard went 6 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the season and earned the win to improve to 5-0. He struck out four, walked one, and hit a batter, while not allowing an earned run, as the two runs on his card came via the Plaia error in the sixth. Dollard, who made his third start tonight, has now appeared in five WCL games since June 26, and has earned the win in every outing. His five wins are tied for the WCL lead as of Wednesday night. Adair came on in the seventh and recorded the final seven outs to earn the save, despite allowing a pair of runs in the ninth.
Yates’ blast in the second inning was the Pippins’ 25th home run of the season, breaking their previous single-season record of 24 set back in their inaugural season of 2014, a year in which they also had the WCL home run leader, Vince Fernandez, hit ten of the long balls. The Pippins only hit seven of their 24 home runs in 2014 at home, however, a number they surpassed on July 2 against Kelowna with Beesley’s solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Pippins have now totaled 11 home runs at Yakima County Stadium this season, with eight coming since June 27. Perhaps most impressively, with Yates’ home run, 12 different Pippins have homered this season, and six have hit two or more.
With his solo shot in the third inning, Denney hit his seventh home run of the season, tying Wenatchee’s Evan Johnson for the fourth-most in the WCL. Interestingly, it was Denney’s first home run at home this season, with each of his previous six long balls coming on the road.
In tallying three hits tonight, Otsuka is now 14 for his last 25 and has tallied multi-hit games in six of his last seven contests. With his pinch-hit two-run single in the eighth inning, Plew recorded his first multi-hit game since July 2 against Kelowna, when he went 3 for 4. Plew entered the at-bat 0 for his 9 nine after going hitless in the Pippins’ final two games of the road trip in Bellingham. With his second inning home run tonight, Yates, after producing just two extra-base hits in his first 18 games, has tallied three in his last five. After going hitless in three at-bats tonight, Beesley is now 4 for his last 33 in WCL games, dating back to July 6 against Walla Walla. His average prior to that game, following an 11-game hitting streak, after his 0 for 4 debut against Kelowna on July 18, had been at .392. He is now down to .264.
What It Means: With the win, and losses from both Cowlitz and Corvallis, the Pippins move to within two games in the WCL South Division second half standings. Additionally, the at 18-19 the Pippins are just a game back in overall record to Cowlitz, which is important, considering overall record serves as the first tiebreaker for a playoff berth if Corvallis is to win the second half.
With the loss, Wenatchee falls a half game back of Victoria in the WCL North second half standings.
What’s Next: Game two of the series is Thursday night. Right-hander A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa, 1-3, 4.67 ERA) is set to make his eighth start for the Pippins against Wenatchee’s left-hander, Connor McCord (Western Oregon, 3-1, 3.06 ERA) with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. from 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, 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.