Pippins Stun Kelowna With Four-Run 9th
YAKIMA, Wash. – The Yakima Valley Pippins trailed the Kelowna Falcons 4-0 after the top of the 1st inning on Sunday night. Headed to the 7th, the Pippins led 9-5, only to trail once again, this time by a score of 13-10, heading into the bottom of the 9th. The Pippins and Falcons went back and forth offensively all night long and as fate would have it, the team to bat last ended up victorious. Indeed, with the bases loaded and one out in a two-run game in the bottom of the 9th, Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) ripped off a bases clearing double into the right-center field gap to give the Pippins a four-run 9th inning and a 14-13 victory, as they walked-off on the Falcons to even the series.
Kelowna (16-10) started fast against Pippins left-hander, Josh Tedeschi (Utah), as they produced a four run top of the 1st inning, which included two walks and four hits. The Pippins (13-12) were able to tack on a run of their own in the bottom half, as a Dillon Plew (Washington State) sacrifice fly to center brought in Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) who had singled to begin the frame against Kelowna’s starter, Niall Windeler (U of British Columbia). After a few quiet frame, the Pippins were at it again in the bottom of the 4th, as they plated a pair of runs on a groundout by Jonny DeLuca (Oregon), to score Ellis, and a Connor White (Columbia Basin) double to bring in DeLuca, to cut the deficit to one at 4-3. After Kelowna came back with a run of their own in the top of the 5th, the Pippins answered in the bottom of the frame as Ellis his a sacrifice fly to center to plate Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) who doubled to begin the frame.
The Pippins entered Sunday’s game outscoring opponents by 15 runs in the 6th inning, their largest run differential in any frame, and the trend rolled on. After a groundout, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) and Sordahl singled before Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton) walked, loading the bases for Beesley. Beesley was then walked to bring in the tying run, and soon after, a wild pitch scored another, giving the Pippins a 6-5 lead. After another Ellis sacrifice fly plated Cope to give the Pippins a two-run cushion, Lucas Denney (Seattle U) roped a two-out double down the left-field line to bring in Beesley and Plew, and give the Pippins a five run 6th and a 9-5 advantage.
As they had done in their prior four meetings against the Pippins, however, Kelowna seemingly had every answer to a Pippins rally. The Falcons quickly plated three runs in the top of the 7th off Pippins’ reliever, John Fuqua (Virginia Military Institute), in which they were helped by three walks, and then added another three runs off the next Pippins reliever, Kyle Nicol (Cal State Northridge), in the 8th, to take a 11-9 lead into the bottom of the frame. The Pippins answered with a run of their own on a DeLuca sacrifice fly to make the score 11-10 heading to the 9th, but Kelowna rallied once again, plating two crucial insurance runs against Pippins left-hander, Anthony Alvarado (Columbia Basin), to extend their lead to 13-10 heading to the bottom of the 9th.
The Pippins, who entered Sunday having not won a single game when trailing after eight innings this season, caught a break right away facing Kelowna reliever, Anthony Garcia (Lower Columbia), as Bosetti, the first batter to come to the plate in the home half of the 9th, reached on a routine ground ball that when through the legs of the Kelowna second baseman, Matt Bottcher (UIC). After Sordahl flew out to center, the Pippins, down to their final two outs, mounted a furious rally. First, Chase Wells (Seattle U), who pinch-hit for Cope, walked, giving the Pippins runners on first and second with one out. Beesley then singled to left, loading the bases. Plew, who already had two hits on the night collected a third soon after, singling in Bosetti to cut the deficit to two at 13-11.
With one out, and the bases still loaded, Ellis, a switch-hitter, stepped in to face the hard-throwing Garcia, a right-hander, from the left side of the plate. A 2-1 fastball then hung out over the middle of the plate and Ellis did not miss it, ripping it into the right-center field gap with the outfield playing shallow to plate Wells and Beesley, before Plew raced around right behind to score the winning run and give the Pippins a remarkable 14-13 victory.
Game Notes: Tedeschi lasted just four innings and threw 91 pitches, while allowing four on six hits and did not factor into the decision. Alvarado, the fourth Pippins’ reliever on the night picked up his first WCL win of the season despite allowing a run in the top of the 9th. Garcia pitched the 9th for Kelowna and blew the save en route to taking the loss, to fall to 0-3.
Ellis’ walk-off was especially impressive given that he had entered Sunday’s contest 4 for his last 21. He also collected 5 RBI on the night, his first multi-RBI game since he hit a go-ahead two run double in the bottom of the 8th inning in a win against Gresham on June 14. The 5 RBI are the most by a Pippins batter in a West Coast League game this season. Plew had six RBI against the Highline Bears in their non-league matchup on Friday.
Sordahl stayed red-hot with three more hits, raising his season average to .349 while collecting his ninth multi-hit game and team-leading fourth three-hit contest. Sordahl has now recorded two or more hits in his past five WCL games played. Equally impressive is the continued success of Plew, who had at least three hits for the third time this season and collected two more RBI’s to give him a team-leading 17 runs driven in. He has now driven in ten runs in his last five WCL games played and had driven in 16 over his past six, including the 6 RBI he collected against Highline in their non-league matchup earlier in the week. Beesley, who recorded two hits, extended his season-long WCL hitting streak to ten games with a double in the 5th inning, while Sordahl and Plew have now hit safely in eight consecutive WCL contests.
With the win, the Pippins move back over .500 for the third time this season. The win over Kelowna was their first against the Falcons this season, as Kelowna had swept them at Elks Stadium from June 17 to 19 and won 11-5 in the first game of the series on Saturday. The walk-off victory was the first for the Pippins this season. They had previously lost on two walk-offs, one against Kelowna via a home run on June 17 and the to Walla Walla, on a single on June 20.
With the win, the Pippins stay three games back of the Corvallis Knights in the WCL South with two to play. With Corvallis’ win last night and their loss to Kelowna, any outside chance of the Pippins catching the Knights for the 1st half title ended.
Even with the loss, Kelowna stays one game clear of Walla Walla, Bellingham and Wenatchee in the WCL North. The Falcons have only one game to play while the three teams behind them have three games remaining, meaning the 1st half playoff spot in the North will likely come down to the wire. Walla Walla and Bellingham play a defacto elimination series over the next three days, meaning that one of the two teams will have a chance at a tiebreaker scenario or at passing Kelowna in the standings. Wenatchee controls its own destiny if it can sweep Cowlitz, or win two out of three, depending on what happens in the rubber game between Yakima Valley and Kelowna tomorrow.
What’s Next: The rubber game of the series is set for Monday night. Pippins’ right-hander, Kade Woods (Spokane Falls), will make his sixth start and will try to pick up his WCL-leading fifth win against Cal Hehnke (Nebraska-Omaha), who comes in with a 3-0 record and a 3.67 ERA. First pitch is 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.