Ninth Inning Rally Propels Pippins to Critical Road Victory
CORVALLIS, Ore. – With the Yakima Valley Pippins trailing the Corvallis Knights 4-3 with two runners on base and two outs in top of the ninth inning on Saturday night, Steve Sordahl stepped to the plate. Sordahl, who had entered the at-bat just two for his last 20, and who had seen his average drop below .300 for the first time since late June just a few days prior, not only had to find a way to snap his recent skid, but he also had to do it against one of the best relievers in the entire West Coast League, Corvallis’ left-handed closer, Chase Kaplan (Kansas). Kaplan, who had just earned the save in Corvallis’ 6-4 victory in game one of the series on Friday, entered the contest with a 1.69 ERA and had allowed just three extra-base hits all season long. With his team’s playoff chances hanging in the balance, Sordahl delivered the biggest hit of the Pippins’ season to this point, lining a double into left-center field to plate a pair of runs and give the Pippins their first and only lead of the game, en route to a 6-5 win over Corvallis as the Pippins inched themselves closer to a playoff berth.
For the second night in a row, Corvallis (15-10, 32-20) plated a run in the bottom of the first inning, this time doing so off of Pippins’ right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa). It did not take the Knights long to stretch their lead as after the Pippins (15-11, 28-25) left the bases loaded with one out in the top of the second inning, Corvallis plated three runs in the bottom half of the frame, while being assisted by a crucial error by Pippins’ shortstop, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada), who had a potential double play ground ball with one out bounce off his chest and roll into center field as a pair of runs came home.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the third inning, the Pippins finally got on the board thanks to a long two-run home run from Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) that sailed over the left-field bullpen and chopped the deficit in half at 4-2.
After the Knights regained a three-run edge with a run in the fourth, the Pippins came right back in the fifth. After a leadoff double from Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) followed by a single from Otsuka, Beesley was able to sacrifice the runners to second and third base to bring up Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) with two outs. Ellis proceeded to put a base hit into left field to plate both runs and trim the deficit to one at 5-4.
The score remained a one run game until the top of the ninth inning, when the Pippins threatened against Kaplan. After Otsuka struck out to begin the frame, Beesley was hit by a pitch, before Lucas Denney (Seattle U) singled into right field, enabling Beesley, the tying run, to go from first to third base. Ellis then tried to bunt in Beesley on a squeeze play that Kaplan read perfectly, tossing the ball to his catcher, Troy Claunch (Oregon State), for the second out of the inning. Sordahl immediately made up for the crucial out, as he lined the second pitch he saw into the gap in left-center to score both Denney and Ellis and to give the Pippins a 6-5 lead.
After Pete Minella (Western Illinois) had worked a scoreless seventh and eighth, Pippins’ closer, Connor White (Portland) retired the side in order in the ninth to earn the save and preserve the Pippins’ crucial 6-5 victory as they kept themselves in the playoff hunt.
Game Notes: Landis, who made his WCL-leading 11th start, went six innings while allowing five runs, only two of which were earned. After going just five innings his last time out on July 31 against Port Angeles, Landis lasted six-plus frames for the ninth time in eleven starts this season. He left the game with the Pippins trailing 5-4 and did not factor into the decision. Minella earned his third win with two scoreless frames of relief to improve to 3-0. He has still allowed just three runs over his 28 2/3 innings of work and his ERA has dropped to a microscopic 0.94. White, who extended his WCL-lead with his 11th save, has now pitched 14 1/3 conseuctive scoreless innings, while his ERA has dropped to 1.13. Kaplan, who allowed Sordahl’s go-ahead double, took his first loss of the season to fall to 3-1. It was his second blown save in eight opportunities, as he also blew a save on June 16 against Port Angeles. The Pippins have now scored three of the six runs that Kaplan has allowed this season.
Beesley’s home run was his seventh of the season and the Pippins’ 32nd as a team. They have hit 20 long balls on the road compared to just 12 at home. Additionally, the Pippins have now hit 16 home runs in both the first and second half.
Sordahl went two for five, his first multi-hit contest since July 29, and his 14th overall to tie Otsuka for the team lead. Additionally, with his go-ahead two-run double in the ninth, he also produced his first multi-RBI game since July 23.With his two-run single in the fifth, Ellis collected his seventh multi-RBI game of the season and first since July 21. Ellis has now driven in nine runs in his past ten games played.
In drawing a walk in the top of the third inning, Otsuka extended his season and franchise-long 26-game on-base streak to 27. He also extended his 12-game hitting streak to 13 with a single in the fifth inning. The 13-game hitting streak, which began on July 22 against Corvallis in the two teams’ first series, is tied for the longest on the team this season. Ellis also had a 13-game hitting streak from the start of the season on June 2 until June 17. Otsuka, who already holds the Pippins’ record for consecutive games reaching base, is just one shy of catching Shawn Wardian’s 2014 mark of hitting safely in 14 straight games.
The win was the Pippins’ 13th comeback victory this season and their second when trailing after eight innings. Their only other win when trailing after eight came on July 2 when Mitch Ellis’ walkoff double propelled the Pippins to a 14-13 win over Kelowna. On the contrary, the loss was Corvallis’ first when leading after eight innings this season. They are now 26-1.
What It Means: With the win, the Pippins have not officially clinched a playoff berth in the WCL South, but they have put themselves in a great position to do so. Yakima Valley is currently tied with the Cowlitz Black Bears for second place in the WCL South at just a half a game behind Corvallis. Still, there are many scenarios for two-way and three-way ties for the WCL South second half title. It is possible that even with a win tomorrow, the Pippins may not know if they have clinched a playoff berth until Monday, when Corvallis and Wenatchee play a makeup game from an earlier cancellation due to weather. With their loss to Cowlitz tonight, the Bend Elks have been officially eliminated.
What’s Next: The rubber game of the series is Sunday night. Right-hander, Liam Herlihy (Wenatchee Valley, 0-1, 8.56 ERA), is set to make his first start for the Pippins against Corvallis’ All-Star left-hander, Cason Cunningham (Linfield, 1-0, 1.61 ERA), who will make his sixth start.
First pitch is set for 5:05 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