Pippins Bats Slow in Game Two as Knights Force Decisive Game Three
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Yakima Valley Pippins dominated the Corvallis Knights at home for a 9-3 victory in game one of their West Coast League South Divisional Round Series on Tuesday night. Playing in front of their home crowd, and reenergized after a couple of brutal travel days, the Knights staved off elimination with a late rally in game two on Wednesday, earning an 8-4 victory to set up a decisive game three with the Pippins on Thursday, with the winner set to advance to the West Coast League Championship Series.
After producing just three runs in game one, Corvallis (1-1, 35-21) matched that output in the bottom of the second inning of game two, plating three runs on four hits off Pippins’ starter, Pete Minella (Western Illinois).
The Pippins (1-1, 29-27) were able to answer right away in the top of the third inning, however. After J.T. Strickler (Lower Columbia) began the frame with a walk, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) singled and then advanced to second base on an error by the left fielder, with Strickler moving to third. After Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) struckout, Tora Otsuka (San Diego) hit a soft grounder just past the pitchers’ mound that Corvallis starter, Trenton Toplikar (UC Riverside) bobbled momentarily, enabling Otsuka to beat out the throw to first and enabling Strickler to come home to make the score 3-1. A few pitches later, with Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) batting, a wild pitch enabled Bosetti to come home from third to cut the deficit to one for Yakima Valley at 3-2. Beesley then flew out to left to score Otsuka on a sacrifice fly to give the Pippins a three-run frame that knotted the score at 3.
After Minella held the Knights scoreless in the third inning, Corvallis regained the lead in the home half of the fourth, plating a run on an RBI double from Chad Stevens (Portland) to take a 4-3 lead.
The score stayed that way until the top of the sixth, when the Pippins were finally able to respond. After Beesley began the frame with a single to center, Lucas Denney (Seattle U) walked, bringing up Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) with runners on first and second base and no one out. Ellis laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line, that he nearly legged out for an infield single, to give the Pippins the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second base with one out for Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s). Sordahl proceeded to hit a soft grounder to second base, which plated Beesley and tied the score at 4.
The Knights, not willing to conceded momentum, answered the bell once again in the sixth inning. After Pippins’ right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa) quickly collected the first two outs of the frame, the Knights mounted a two out rally, stringing together four consecutive hits and then a sacrifice fly to plate two more runs and take a 6-4 lead.
After a pair of quiet frames for the Pippins offensively in the seventh and eighth innings, the Knights went to work in the bottom of the eighth, tacking on two crucial insurance runs off Pippins’ reliever, Liam Herlihy (Linfield), to take a commanding 8-4 lead to the top of the ninth inning.
Facing Corvallis left-hander, Hazahel Quijada (UC Riverside), Sordahl drew a leadoff walk, but that was ultimately all the Pippins could muster up in the final frame, as Quijada struck out Strickler and Bosetti to earn the save and secure the 8-4 victory for Corvallis to force a decisive game three on Thursday night.
Game Notes: Minella, whose first 13 appearances for the Pippins came exclusively out of the bullpen, made his first start, and lasted just four innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits, while striking out just one batter, walking two, and hitting Corvallis leadoff man, Taylor Travess (Oregon), twice. The Pippins were able to tie the game in the third inning, however, and he did not factor into the decision. Minella’s streak of 12 scoreless innings pitched came to a close when he allowed three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Prior to tonight, he had last allowed a run via a home run on the first pitch of his outing against Corvallis in a regular season home game on July 24, when Dillan Shurm (Nevada) took him deep. Minella ultimately settled down in that outing and earned the win over five innings of work. Landis, who made his first relief appearance of the season, allowed two runs, including the go-ahead single to Matt Kelly (Portland) in the sixth inning, and took the loss to fall to 3-4. Landis, who led the WCL with 11 starts over the course of the regular season, took his first loss since July 9 against Cowlitz. After beginning the season just 1-3, Landis entered Wednesday’s relief appearance 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last five outings, all starts.
Toplikar allowed four runs (three earned) over seven strong innings, while scattering just four hits, and earned his third win of the season to improve to 3-0. The outing was Toplikar’s second start against Yakima Valley. The Pippins had gotten four runs off of him on ten hits when he last faced them at Yakima County Stadium on July 22. Quijada earned his second save of the season by worked two scoreless frames of relief. Quijada, who has now appeared three times against the Pippins, has allowed just one run over 7 2/3 innings of work over the course of those outings, with nine strikeouts and just two walks.
By reaching via an error in the top of the third inning, Otsuka extended his on-base streak to 29 consecutive games, dating back to the end of the regular season. With a single in the top of the eighth, he also extended his hitting streak to 15 games and has hit safely in 15 consecutive road games as well. Ellis, who had reached safely in 20 consecutive games dating back to the regular season, failed to reach base. A night after producing 15 hits, a postseason single-game high, the Pippins managed just five hits in game two.
With a three-hit outing and two more runs batted in tonight, Corvallis shortstop, Chad Stevens, is now 11 for 22 in eight games played this season against Yakima Valley. Both of his three-hit games this season have come against the Pippins (tonight and July 24) and he has now driven in seven runs for the season against Yakima Valley. Other Knights who stayed hot against the Pippins include Taylor Travess, who reached base on all five of his plate appearances and has now hit safely in all eight games against the Pippins this season, and Matt Kelly, the Knights’ second baseman who recorded a multi-hit playoff game for the second straight night, after producing two doubles in game one.
What’s Next: The decisive game three of the series is Thursday night. The Pippins’ starter has yet to be determined. Connor Redmond (Cal Poly-SLO, 1-2, 3.72 ERA) is set to make his sixth start for Corvallis. Redmond has been impressive this season, as he has struck out 22 and walked just five over 29 innings of work this season.
The winner of Thursday’s contest will meet the Victoria HarbourCats, who completed a sweep of the Kelowna Falcons with an impressive 11-5 win in game two of the North Division Playoffs, in the WCL Championship Series, which will begin on Saturday. Home field advantage for the series depends on who is to win Thursday’s game. If the Pippins win, they would host game one of the series before heading to Victoria for games two and three (if necessary). If the Knights win, by virtue of having had the best record in the WCL, they would travel to Victoria for game one before hosting games two and three (if necessary).
The Pippins are seeking their first ever appearance in the WCL Championship Series. Corvallis is seeking their ninth, while also trying to win their fifth championship, which would tie the Wenatchee AppleSox for the most in WCL history.
First pitch for game three of the series is set for 6:40 p.m. from Goss Stadium. Pippins fans can listen to the game right here via KUTI AM-1460 ESPN Yakima, with Jack Benjamin calling the play-by-play, beginning with the Dairy Farmers of Washington Pregame Show at 6:25 p.m. prior to first pitch, or by streaming online here through the Pippins website: http://pippinsbaseball.com/media/listen-live/.
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, and won their 100th game on June 13, 2017, to become the third-fastest WCL franchise to reach 100 wins. Yakima County Stadium recently played host to the 2017 West Coast League All-Star Game and includes 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.