Ninth Inning Surge Steers Pippins to Win
BEND, Ore. – Having just blown a 5-4 lead with their star pitcher, Connor White (Portland), on the mound in the eighth, many teams may have hung their heads and folded in a road game. Of course, in terms of the ability to persevere, the Yakima Valley Pippins are not most teams. Tied at five in the top of the ninth, the Pippins exploded for three runs, helped by a series of errors, and then watched as their closer, Connor White (Portland), found a way through the ninth, as the Pippins beat the Bend Elks 8-5 on Tuesday night and moved to within three games of the Cowlitz Black Bears in the WCL South second half standings.
The Pippins (22-21, 8-6) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the game, thanks to a pair of runs in the top of the first, and another in the third. In the first inning, Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) and Tora Otsuka (San Diego) singled, before being moved over by a Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) groundout to second base. Lucas Denney (Seattle U) then grounded out to second to score Sordahl before Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) lined a two-out single into left field to plate Otsuka and give the Pippins a 2-0 lead. Denney tacked on to the lead in the third with an RBI single to score Sordahl, who had begun the frame with a base hit.
The Elks (21-25, 9-10), playing in front of one of their largest crowds of the season (listed at 2,476), fought their way back in the fourth inning, taking advantage of a pair of Pippins errors to plate three runs off of Yakima Valley’s starter, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa) to tie the game at three. Bend then took the lead in the fifth on a pair of hits off Landis to make the score 4-3.
The score remained that way until the seventh, when the Pippins came alive to tie the game. After Otsuka singled with one out, he stole second base to get into scoring position for DeLuca, who delivered a game-tying RBI single that bounced over the head of the Bend shortstop. In the eighth inning, the Pippins regained the lead, as after Ellis singled to begin the frame and was moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) delivered the go-ahead base hit to right field to plate Ellis and give the Pippins a 5-4 lead.
The Elks answered again in the eighth, as they plated a run off White, who came into the ballgame for a four-out save with a runner already on first base.
With the game tied at 5 and the top of the order due up heading into the ninth inning, the Pippins found another gear offensively. Sordahl began the frame with a single, before being moved over to second base as Otsuka advanced on an error by the second baseman. After a DeLuca groundout which moved both baserunners into scoring position, Denney, already with two runs batted in on the night, came through again, lining a single through the right side to plate both runners to give the Pippins a 7-5 lead. Denney ended up at third on the play after a mishap by the right fielder charging the ball.
The Pippins were not done in the frame, however, as Ellis hit a soft grounder to short which scored Denney and resulted in another throwing error. In all, the Pippins plated three runs in the frame on two hits, and watched Bend commit four costly errors.
Pitching for the second night in a row, White did himself no favors when he came back out for the ninth inning when he walked the first three batters of the frame to load the bases with no outs to bring up the winning run. Thankfully, the Pippins’ closer found his All-Star form just in the nick of time, striking out the next three batters he faced to strand the bases full and preserve the Pippins’ 8-5 victory in the first game of the series.
Game Notes: Landis, making his ninth start for the Pippins, went six innings and allowed four runs, just one of which was earned, while striking out two and walking two. He did not factor into the decision. Landis has now gone six-plus innings in his last five starts and it was his seventh start this season going at least six. The Pippins, who were just 2-5 in his first seven starts have now won the last two times he has pitched. White, who entered with the Pippins leading by one with two outs and a runner on first base in the eighth inning, allowed the tying run to score, which was credited to Liam Herlihy (Wenatchee Valley), the pitcher he relieved. The blown save was White’s second this season. He did pick up the win by pitching a scoreless ninth to improve to 1-1. The blown save was White’s second of the season as he also blew a save on June 20 when the Pippins led 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning against the Walla Walla Sweets before falling 7-6. White’s roller-coaster ninth inning was eerily similar to Dustin Yates’ (Washington State) save in the first matchup of the season between the two teams on June 27. In that game, Yates also walked the first three batters he faced before striking out the next three. Perhaps the strangest factor involved is the fact that both games ended with a 8-5 final score in favor of Yakima Valley. Bend reliever, James Acuna (Oregon), allowed the three-run ninth inning by the Pippins (although none of the runs were earned), and took his second loss to fall to 2-3.
The Pippins tallied 16 hits for the game, matching the number they put on the board against Bend in a 10-5 win on June 29. They have now put up 13 hits or more against Bend in each of the four games they have played this season and are batting .376 against the Elks this season.
With four runs batted in, Denney recorded his eighth multi-RBI game to tie Dillon Plew (Washington State) for the team lead. It was also the third time this season he has driven in four runs, the most on the team. Sordahl recorded a three-hit contest for the third time this season while also collected his sixth multi-hit game overall, and his first since July 15. With two more hits tonight, Otsuka has tallied eight multi-hit contests in his last 12 games played. He tallied just four in his first 18. He also stole a base for the second night in a row, his tenth of the season. DeLuca recorded his second multi-hit game in a row and third in his last four contests. Ellis, whose average had dropped to .267 yesterday, the lowest it had been all season, recorded his first multi-hit game since July 6. After driving in 18 runs during his first 20 games played, Ellis, who drove in just one run from July 3 to July 20, has driven in four in his past four games.
What It Means: With the win, the Pippins move to within three games of the first place Cowlitz Black Bears in the WCL South second half standings, as Cowlitz was thrashed by Bellingham, 14-5, on Tuesday.
With the loss, the Elks remain 4.5 games back of Cowlitz, and are a game below .500 in the second half.
What’s Next: Game two of the series is Wednesday night. Left-hander, Josh Tedeschi (Utah, 2-3, 5.18 ERA), will make his ninth start for the Pippins against Bend right-hander, Craig Grubbe (Western Oregon, 1-0, 4.95 ERA).
First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. from Vince Genna 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, and won their 100th game on July 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.