Pippins Fall on Walk Off Home Run
KELOWNA, B.C. – Until the 6th inning, the Yakima Valley Pippins had recorded just two hits, and trailed the Kelowna Falcons 1-0. After the top of the 8th, the Pippins had taken a 3-1 lead, and appeared on their way to a series-opening win. Kelowna had a large rally in store, however, using a two-run bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game, before hitting a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Pippins 4-3 in the first of their three game set at Elks Stadium on Saturday night.
After two scoreless frames thrown by both Kelowna’s starter, Braeden Toikka (Western Oklahoma) and the Pippins’ Josh Tedeschi (Utah), the Falcons (7-6) got the scoring started in the bottom of the 3rd, as Ian Dawkins (Sacramento State) lined an RBI single into left field to plate Connor Gurnik (Cal Poly), for the game’s first run. The score remained 1-0 in favor of Kelowna until the 6th inning.
It was then that the Pippins (6-7) mounted a rally against Toikka, whom had silenced them for five innings. After Dustin Yates (Washington State) drew a one out walk, Lucas Denney (Seattle U) doubled down the right field line, giving the Pippins runners on second and third with one out. Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) then smacked a single into right field to score Yates and tie the game. Michael Wyatt (Columbia Basin), then pinch hit for Chris Dalto (Central Washington), and plated Denney with a single to give the Pippins a 2-1 lead, which they took to the 8th inning. In the top of the 8th, Denney sent the first pitch he saw, an elevated fastball, over the center field fence for a leadoff solo home run, to extend the Pippins lead to 3-1.
Having gotten close to 80 pitches, Tedeschi came out of the game after throwing seven innings of one run baseball. John Fuqua (Virginia Military Institute) came on in relief in the bottom of the 8th, but struggled, recording only one out, while allowing two hits and walking two, leaving the bases loaded with one run already in and just one out when he was pulled from the game. Due to the limited arms available in relief, Wyatt, normally a position player, was brought on in relief to clean up the bases loaded one out jam. He proceeded to walk the first batter he faced, which scored the tying run, but was able to maneuver his way out of further trouble, keeping the score tied at 3.
After the Pippins were retired in order in the 9th, Kelowna came to bat and Gurnik, their leadoff man in the inning reached via a walk. After Wyatt induced a pop up on a bunt attempt to make it a runner on first with one out, he tried to pick off Gurnik at first but overshot the head of Denney, the first baseman, as the ball caromed down the right field line. Gurnik, instead of advancing to second and stopping, dug for third and was thrown out by Denney from the right field line after he has retrieved the ball. With no runners on and two outs, the game seemed destined for extra innings. Dawkins, however, had other ideas, crushing a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence for a walk off home run to give Kelowna the 4-3 victory.
Game Notes: Tedeschi went seven innings and allowed just the single unearned run. He threw 76 pitches (46 strikes) while striking out four and walking two on the night, and scattered six hits. It was a major bounce back outing for Tedeschi, after he had not been able to record an out in the bottom of the 4th inning against Wenatchee, allowing ten hits and seven earned runs in three innings of work, as part of the Pippins’ 25-8 loss. Wyatt, pitching for the first time since his time at Ellensburg High School, took the loss after allowing the walk off home run to Dawkins. Kelowna reliever, Sam Menegat (Mt. Hood), pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th inning to earn the win. The walk off loss was the first one for the Pippins since they lost to the Walla Walla Sweets on July 1, 2016 at Borleske Stadium, which also came via a walk off home run, but in the bottom of the 11th inning.
With his RBI single in the 6th inning, Ellis has now hit safely in each of the Pippins’ first 13 games and is batting .362. By going 2 for 2 as a pinch hitter, Wyatt is now back to hitting .500 for the season, which leads the West Coast League among qualified batters as of Saturday night. With two hits apiece, Wyatt and Ellis picked up their fifth and sixth multi-hit games of the season, respectively. Denney picked up his second multi-hit game and the home run was his first this season. The home run is the fourth the Pippins have hit as a team and the first they have hit on the road.
With the loss, the Pippins fall a game below .500 and stay three games back of the Corvallis Knights in the West Coast League South Division standings. With the win, Kelowna moves a game over .500 and stays one back of the Bellingham Bells in the South Division standings.
What’s Next: Game two of the series is Sunday night. Cullen Kafka (Oregon) is set to make his first start for the Pippins as he will go up against fellow right-hander, Kade Mechals (Western Oregon) with first pitch set for 5:05 p.m. at Elks 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.