Plew Powers Pippins to Fourth Straight Win
YAKIMA, Wash. – On June 7, Dillon Plew (Washington State) homered for the Yakima Valley Pippins. At the time, Plew’s towering shot over the right field wall seemed surprising, given that it was already the Pippins’ third home run of the season just six games in. Leading up to Wednesday’s game, however, the Pippins had reeled off ten more long balls, including eight in the past four games. Plew, who had not homered since that game nearly three weeks ago, decided to once again get involved in the power act, as he hit a three-run go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 6th inning, as part of a four-hit night, to help lead the Pippins to a 7-3 win over the Bend Elks for their fourth straight victory.
Early on, the two starters, Bend’s Kyle Cantu (Morehead State), and the Pippins’ John Fuqua (Virginia Military Institute) locked in a pitchers duel, with each throwing four scoreless frames, including Fuqua retiring the first 12 batters he faced. Bend (10-13) finally broke through in the top of the 5th, plating two runs against Fuqua on a pair of RBI singles to take a 2-0 lead. After leaving six runners stranded through the first four frames, the Pippins (11-11) halved the deficit in the bottom of the frame, as Plew doubled and then came around to score on a double-play off the bat of Bradlee Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO).
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 6th, the Pippins began to rally right away against Cantu, as Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) singled to left to leadoff the frame, and was then moved into scoring position on a Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) sacrifice bunt. Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s), who had already singled and doubled in his first two at bats, after going 3 for 4 at the plate on Tuesday, proceeded to rip a single through the right side to plate Ellis and knot the game at 2. After Dustin Yates (Washington State) popped out, Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton), who was pinch-hitting for Tyler Sandoval (Colorado Mesa), walked, giving the Pippins runners on first and second with two outs for Plew. A lengthy mound meeting before the at bat ensued and Bend decided to leave Cantu on the mound to face Plew. As it turned out, the decision backfired immediately as Plew drilled the fourth pitch of the at-bat way over the right-field wall for a go-ahead three-run home run to give the Pippins a four run 6th and their first lead of the night at 5-2.
After Bend came back with a run in the top of the 7th to cut the Pippins lead back to two, Yakima Valley responded once again, as Yates doubled in Sordahl before being driven in by a bloop single off the bat of Plew, to give the Pippins a 7-3 lead.
A combination of Chris Dalto (Central Washington) and Connor White (Columbia Basin) set down the final six Elks faced in order, including three strikeouts, to preserve the Pippins fourth straight win.
Game Notes: Fuqua went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits while striking out four and walking two, and did not factor into the decision. Taylor Dollard (Cal Poly-SLO) came on in relief of Fuqua with two outs in the top of the 6th inning, and therefore, earned the win to improve to 2-0, as the Pippins took the lead for good in the bottom of the frame. Dalto, who had been experiencing discomfort in his throwing arm pitched for the first time since June 3, and struck out two of the three batters he faced in the top of the 8th inning. White, in his first appearance since blowing his first save of the season at Walla Walla on June 20 threw a scoreless 9th. The Pippins allowed a season low four hits to Bend, with three coming in their two-run 5th inning.
Plew’s home run was his second of the season and he becomes the fifth Pippins batter to his two or more home runs. The Pippins have now hit 14 home runs for the season, matching their output from 2015 (nine) and 2016 (five), combined. The six home runs at Yakima County Stadium are also now just one shy of the seven the team hit in their inaugural season of 2014, which still stands as the most home runs at home in a single season. The Pippins have now hit nine home runs in their past five games, but their streak of three consecutive games with at least two home runs came to a close.
With four hits on Wednesday, Plew is the first Pippins batter with a four-hit contest this season. It is the first four-hit game for a Pippin since Freddy Smith had four hits on July 29, 2016 against Kelowna. Plew is now 6 for 9 in the series, which matches the mark of Sordahl, who had three more hits after a three-hit outing yesterday. Sordahl now leads the team with three games of at least three hits, while Plew now has two, and leads the team with seven multi-hit contests.
With the win, the Pippins have a season long four-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the West Coast League. The Pippins are also back to .500 for the first time since June 16, when they were 6-6 before proceeding to lose four in a row to drop a season high four games below .500. The Pippins have now won at least four straight games for the first time since they began the 2016 campaign with six consecutive wins. With a win on Thursday, the Pippins will move back over .500 for the first time since June 6, when they held a 3-2 record after winning the first two games of their series with Bellingham.
Standings Look: With a four straight win and a second consecutive home loss by the Corvallis Knights, the Pippins are now two games back of first in the WCL South Division standings with five left to play in the 1st half of the season. Corvallis has just three games remaining. With the loss, Bend falls a season high three games below .500. The Elks did themselves no favors defensively, as they committed a season-high six errors with their two middle infielders, shortstop, Jaylon McLaughlin (Nevada) and second-baseman, Collin Runge (Portland), each committing three on the night. The Elks now have committed a West Coast League high 45 errors as a team.
What’s Next: The Pippins will go for the sweep and their fifth straight win tomorrow night. Right-hander, Cullen Kafka (Oregon), will make his third start for the Pippins against Bend left-hander, Grant Larson (Chico State), 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.