Pippins Fall Short in Pitchers' Duel
KELOWNA, B.C. – Coming off a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss via a walk off home run by the Kelowna Falcons on Saturday night, the Yakima Valley Pippins received a stellar outing from their starter, Cullen Kafka (Oregon), as they tried to bounce back on Sunday. Unfortunately for Kafka, and the Pippins, Kelowna’s starter, Kade Mechals (Western Oregon), was even better. In a game that featured just three combined runs and 11 combined hits, the Pippins came up one run short for the second straight night, falling to Kelowna by a final score of 2-1.
On a night where pitching ruled early and often, the start of the game was an extraordinary display from each team’s starter. Mechals retired the first eight Pippins he faced and did not allow a hit until Lucas Denney (Seattle U) singled in the 4th inning with two outs. Kafka, making his first start for the Pippins, retired the first ten batters that he faced and did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning. Kafka struck out five of the first six Kelowna hitters he faced, and struck out the side in the bottom of the 2nd inning.
The first chance for the Pippins (6-8) to score came in the top of the 6th, when Dillon Plew (Washington State) followed up a Tora Otsuka (San Diego) single with a bunt hit of his own, giving the Pippins runners on first and second with two outs. Denney grounded out to end the threat, however, leaving the game scoreless. The missed opportunity proved costly, as Kelowna (8-6) immediately struck with the first run of the game in the home half of the frame, as Taylor Wright (Maryland) singled in Ian Dawkins (Sacramento State) to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. An inning later, after Kafka was relieved by Liam Herlihy (Wenatchee Valley), Kelowna tacked on another run, as Matt Bottcher (UIC) plated Bryce Steckler with an RBI single that proved to be the winning run, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead at the time.
Otsuka, one of the few bright spots for the Pippins offensively in the game, did his best to get his team on the board in the 8th, as he tripled to right with one out, but the Pippins were unable to take advantage, as a couple pop outs ended the threat.
After Mechals left the game at the end of the 8th inning, the Pippins threatened against Kelowna reliever, Brayden Price (West Texas A&M), in the top of the 9th, as both Plew and Denney worked walks to begin the frame. After Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) struckout, Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist) came on as a pinch hitter and grounded out to second base to score Plew, who had advanced to third base on a wild pitch earlier in the at bat. With Denney serving as the tying run at third base and two outs, Chase Wells (Seattle U) flied out to center to end the threat, as Price saved the 2-1 victory.
Game Notes: Kafka (0-1) started and went six innings for the Pippins, allowing just a single run on four hits, while striking out seven and walking just two, but despite his efforts, he took the loss. His seven strikeouts tie a season high by a Pippins pitcher, with A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa) also striking out seven on June 14 against Gresham. Mechals (1-0) allowed just four hits over eight shutout innings, while striking out five and walking just one to earn the win. Despite allowing a run in the top of the 9th, Price earned the save, his third of the season. After Herlihy allowed a run in the 7th, Connor White (Columbia Basin) came on in the 8th to pitch a scoreless frame. In seven innings over seven appearances this season, White has still not allowed a run, while picking up all three Pippins saves. The one run produced by the Pippins was their lowest scoring output of the season, surpassing the two runs they scored on opening night against the Victoria HarbourCats. Their four hits match a season low for the third time this season.
With two hits, Otsuka recorded his first multi-hit game of the season. He had came into Sunday’s game just 2 for his first 19. In going 0 for 4, Ellis’ season-opening 13-game hitting streak comes to an end. It was the longest active hitting streak in the West Coast League as of Sunday night and two less than the longest streak this season. Michael Wyatt (Columbia Basin), who came in hitting .500 to rank second in the WCL in batting average went 0 for 4 with a strikeout. The Pippins had just seven baserunners in the entire game.
With the win, Kelowna has now won three straight and stays a game back of the red hot Bellingham Bells in the WCL North Division standings. Bellingham currently is on a WCL high six-game winning streak after defeating Bend on Sunday. With the loss, the Pippins fall two games below .500 for the second time this season, but remain three games back of the Corvallis Knights, whom have also lost two straight, in the WCL South Division standings.
What’s Next: Kelowna will go for the sweep in the final game of the series on Monday night. The Falcons will send out right-hander, James Brooks (Concordia), to make his third start while the Pippins will counter with right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa), who will also start his third contest. First pitch is set for 6:35 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.