Pippins Use Timely Plays to Beat Bells in Series Opener
YAKIMA, Wash. – For three innings on Monday night at Yakima County Stadium, the Bellingham Bells seemed poised to break the game open and spoil another game within the Yakima Valley Pippins' six game season-opening homestand. Yet, despite the Bells putting multiple runners on base in each frame, including loading the bases in the 1st inning and totaling eight more hits than the Pippins, it was Yakima Valley that made the timely plays to win the opening game of the three game series 4-2 and get back to .500 on the season.
The Pippins (2-2) had not scored first in any of their first three games of the season and it seemed that the trend was going to continue when the Bells (2-2) loaded the bases against Pippins starter, Hunter French (Columbia Basin), in the top of the 1st inning. French, however, was able to work his way out of the one out jam, thanks in large part to a diving stop at second base by Conner McNally (Utah) to end the frame. French then got out of another jam when Bellingham put two runners on with two outs in the 3rd inning. It looked as if Bellingham was finally going to break through in the 4th when they put two more runners on, but a diving catch by Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) off a line drive hit by Shane Hanon (Marshall) with two outs ended the threat. It was in the bottom of the frame that the Pippins were able to strike first.
Dillon Plew (Washington State) walked to begin the frame and after a few quick outs, Chris Dalto (Central Washington) roped a double in to the right-center field gap scoring Plew from first base for the game’s first run. Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) followed with a single down the right field line to score Dalto and give the Pippins a 2-0 lead heading into the 5th inning.
In the top of the 5th, Bellingham got on the board, courtesy of a Max Flower (California) RBI single that plated Austin Pinorini (Bellevue). It seemed as though Bellingham would push across another run when Colin Ridley (Maine) roped a line drive to left-center field with two on and two out, but one again, Sordahl made a fantastic sliding grab to end the threat and maintain a three run lead for the Pippins.
The Pippins responded offensively in the bottom of the 6th inning, pushing two more runs across on the strength of an Ellis sacrifice fly to plate Michael Wyatt (Columbia Basin), and a wild pitch that brought home Gabe Taylor (Dixie State) who had singled earlier in the frame.
Bellingham scored another run in the 7th inning on Flower’s second RBI single of the night, but after one run had scored, Austin Shenton (Bellevue) got caught between third base and home plate trying to score, and was tagged out after a heads up play by Taylor in right-field. The bullpen combination of Kyle Nicol (Cal State Northridge) and Connor White (Columbia Basin) then retired six of the last seven Bells hitters that they faced, and the Pippins finished off a 4-2 win to get back to .500
The Hitting: Dalto’s RBI double in the 4th inning was his first hit as a Pippin. He had previously been 0 for 6 including a pop-out in his first at-bat in the 2nd inning. Ellis had two-RBI to become the 5th Pippins player with a multi-RBI game this season. With an infield single in the 1st inning, Wyatt joined Ellis as the only Pippins players to hit safely in each of the season’s first four games. Sordahl and Plew have also reached base safely in the first four games. The Pippins recorded a season low four hits. They had not recorded in a hit total lower than ten in their first three games. The Pippins also struck out a season-high seven times after not striking out once in their loss against Victoria on Sunday, the first time they have ever accomplished that feat.
The Pitching: French went six innings, while allowing ten hits, two earned runs, and striking out two batters against one walk to earn the win. He threw 99 pitches on the night, 70 for strikes. White threw a scoreless 9th to preserve the lead and earn the first save of the season for the Pippins. Jimmy Boyce (Edmonds CC) started and went six innings for Bellingham, allowing four earned runs while striking out five and walking three. Connor Sage (Everett CC) came on in relief in the 7th and retired all six Pippins hitters he faced and struck out two batters.
Game Notes: With the win tonight, the Pippins are now 6-9 all time against the Bells, the worst head-to-head all-time mark against any team in the West Coast League. The Pippins best season against Bellingham came last year when they went 3-3. The Bells left 13 runners on base, and left at least one runner on base in every inning except the 8th. With the win, sit 1.5 games back of the Corvallis Knights in the WCL South Division Standings. Corvallis sits at 3-0 and does not play again until Thursday night. With the loss, Bellingham stays a game back of the 1st place Walla Walla Sweets in the WCL North Division Standings.
What’s Next: Game 2 of the three game series will take place on Tuesday night as the Pippins continue their six-game season opening homestand. Josh Tedeschi (Utah), who appeared on opening night for the Pippins and threw four innings in relief is set to face off against the Bells right-hander Rogelio Reyes (California) 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.