Three-Run Seventh Sends Knights Past Pippins
CORVALLIS, Ore. – After battling back from two-run first inning deficit, the Yakima Valley Pippins put themselves in a great position to win a crucial road game against the Corvallis Knights on Friday night, as they led by a run in the seventh inning. The tides quickly turned, however, as the Pippins’ starter, left-hander Anthony Alvarado (Columbia Basin), who had found a nice groove after a bumpy start, left the game after recording the first two outs in the frame. Corvallis immediately took advantage of the Pippins’ pitching change, plating three back-breaking runs in the seventh inning off of reliever, Grayson Jones (James Madison), en route to a 6-4 comeback win in front of a crowd of 1,978 at Goss Stadium.
Corvallis (15-9, 32-19) struck for a pair of runs immediately against Alvarado, as they plated two on a pair of hits including an RBI triple from Matt Kelly (Portland) in the bottom of the first inning.
After a pair of scoreless frames from either side, the Pippins (14-11, 27-25) responded to tie the game in the top of the fourth, as they produced a pair of runs on consecutive one-out doubles from Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) and Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s), along with a two out double off the center-field wall from Chase Wells (Seattle U) to tie the game at 2. The Pippins had a great chance to plate another run when Tyler Bosetti (Nevada) followed Wells with a single into left-field, but Wells was gunned down trying to score by Corvallis left-fielder, Taylor Travess (Oregon), to keep it a tie ballgame.
After the Knights were able to retake the lead on a pair of doubles in the bottom of the frame, the Pippins responded again in the top of the fifth. Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) began the inning by reaching base on a dropped third strike and proceeded to steal second base to move himself into scoring position. The next batter, Tora Otsuka (San Diego), delivered on a hit and run, lining a ground ball through the hole into right field to plate DeLuca and knot the score at 3. After a Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) single, Lucas Denney (Seattle U) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Otsuka and Beesley to second and third base respectively for Ellis, who then grounded out to the shortstop to plate Otsuka and give the Pippins their first lead of the game at 4-3.
After working a scoreless sixth inning, Alvarado retired the first two batters of the bottom of the seventh before walking Kelly on four pitches. Jones then came on in relief and allowed back-to-back singles to begin his outing as Corvallis tied the game, before giving up a two-run go-ahead double to Zak Taylor (Oregon State), which proved to be the game-winner.
Trailing 6-4 in the ninth, Bosetti worked a walk to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs, but DeLuca and Otsuka both struck out before Beesley lined out to left to end the game as the Pippins lost their second in a row.
Game Notes: Alvarado, who threw a complete game two hit shutout in his first start of the season against Port Angeles on July 30, was solid again, tossing 6 2/3 innings while allowing four runs on seven hits and did not factor into the decision. Alvarado left the game in line for a win, as the Pippins led 4-3 with two outs and a runner on first base in the seventh inning at the point of his departure. Jones, who allowed three hits and the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, took his second loss and fell to 0-2. Corvallis left-hander, Hazahel Quijada (UC Riverside), who held the Pippins scoreless over 3 2/3 innings of relief, earned the win to improve to 2-3. Chase Kaplan (Kansas) pitched a scoreless ninth for Corvalis and earned his sixth save of the season. Kaplan, who was a WCL All-Star this past season for the second year in a row, has allowed just one run in his past nine appearances, with the lone run coming at Yakima Valley on July 24 in a 5-3 Pippins win. Corvallis starter, Dakota Donovan (Oregon State) lasted just 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs and seven hits but did not factor into the decision, despite leaving the game in line for a loss with his team trailing by one.
Friday’s loss was nearly identical to the first matchup of the season between the two teams on July 22, when the Pippins led 4-3 entering the seventh inning only to watch Corvallis plate a pair of runs to retake the lead for good. The Pippins are now 23-6 when leading after six innings. The Knights improved to 26-0 when holding a lead after eight innings while the Pippins are now just 1-22 when they trail to enter the ninth.
The Pippins have also now outhit Corvallis in all four games of their season series, yet they have won just one of four meetings. The Pippins have totaled 57 hits to the Knights’ 42 in the four games thus far.
With his groundout in the fourth, Ellis collected his seventh RBI in his last nine games and is up to 29 on the season, five back of Denney for the team lead. Ellis is also now riding a season-high 17-game on-base streak. J.T. Strickler (Lower Columbia College) tallied his second multi-hit game, with the previous occurance also coming at the hands of Corvallis, when he collected four hits on July 22. DeLuca stole his 11th base of the season but was also caught for the first time this year after his single to begin the game in the top of the first. Corvallis catcher, Troy Claunch (Oregon State) caught DeLuca trying to steal second with a throw from behind the plate that one hopped into second base. It was Claunch’s WCL-leading 14th runner caught stealing this season.
With his single in the fifth, Otsuka extended his 11-game hitting streak to 12 and also extended his on-base streak to 26 games, a streak that was already the longest in Pippins franchise history. Otsuka is also now riding a WCL season-long 14-game hitting streak on the road, a streak that began on June 21 when he singled in the fifth inning in Walla Walla.
What It Means: Corvallis has now won three of four meetings against Yakima Valley this season and now lead the all-time head-to-head series 10-9, including a .500 mark at home at 5-5. With the win, the Knights extended their second half division lead in the WCL South to 1.5 games over the trio of the Pippins, the Cowlitz Black Bears, and the Bend Elks, who shutout Cowlitz 8-0 at home on Friday to stave off elimination from playoff contention.
With the loss, the Pippins have dropped two in a row after they had put together a five-game winning streak for the second time this season. At 1.5 games back, the Pippins will now need to take both games from Corvallis and get a Wenatchee win over Corvallis when they play a potential make-up game on Monday, August 7, for their previously postponed contest.
Clinching Scenarios: Whoever wins the second half in the WCL South gets an automatic playoff berth. If Corvallis wins the second half, the first tiebreaker for the next playoff spot is overall record, where the Pippins currently hold the edge over Bend by a game and Cowlitz by two games. The second tiebreaker, should Bend, and/or Cowlitz, finish tied with the Pippins in overall record, is head-to-head record in the second half. Bend owns the tiebreaker over Yakima Valley by virtue of their series win from July 26 to 28 at home, when they took two out of three games from the Pippins. Yakima Valley and Cowlitz split 3-3 in the second half meaning they would have to go to the next tiebreaker, which is division record for the second half. Cowlitz currently owns the tiebreaker over the Pippins, with a 5-5 mark against the WCL South in the second half compared to the Pippins’ 5-8 mark. Unfortunately, the Pippins’ first half record against the South, when they went 7-2, is rendered irrelevant for the second half playoff berth. Still, Cowlitz must win their next two games while the Pippins lose both for it to go as far as this tiebreaker scenario.
What’s Next: Game two of the series is Saturday night. Right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa, 3-3, 3.92 ERA), who leads the WCL with 60 innings pitched, is set to make his WCL-leading 11th start against Corvallis left-hander, Jordan Horak (Portland, 5-1, 3.21), who will start his seventh game for the Knights.
Landis is 2-0 over his last four starts while holding a 2.80 ERA. His current ERA, at 3.92, is a full point lower than it was nearly a month ago, on July 9, when it was at 4.93 after his sixth start against Cowlitz. Horak will be facing the Pippins for a second time. He earned the win in his first outing against Yakima Valley on the road on July 23, but he allowed eight hits and four runs over five innings, and was mainly the beneficiary of 13 runs of offensive support. In fact, in his five wins this season, Horak is receiving better than ten runs of support.
First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. from Goss 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 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.