Pippins Season Comes to Close With One-Run Loss in Corvallis
CORVALLIS, Ore. – All season long, the Yakima Valley Pippins had found ways to win games that were seemingly out of reach. Take, for instance, July 2, when the Pippins trailed the Kelowna Falcons by three runs entering the bottom of the ninth inning before walking off on a Mitch Ellis double. Or take July 11 against Victoria, when the Pippins ripped off 11 unanswered runs from the second inning on after trailing 6-1. Or, for a more recent example, take August 5, against the Corvallis Knights, when the Pippins were down to their final out until Steve Sordahl ripped a go-ahead double into to keep the Pippins’ season alive and earn them a playoff berth. The Pippins had shown so much resiliency (to the tune of 13 comeback wins) that when the team found themselves down by only one run in the top of the ninth inning of Thursday’s winner-take-all game three of their West Coast League South Divisional Playoff Series, one could very reasonably expect that the Pippins would come through again. Unfortunately, the Knights bullpen had other plans, as they set down the final seven Pippins batters in order to give Corvallis a 3-2 victory to advance to the West Coast League Championship Series, while the Pippins’ season came to an abrupt end.
The Knights (2-1, 36-21), who were seeking a return trip to the WCL Championship Series and a chance to defend last year’s title, got off to a strong start in front of their home crowd against Pippins’ left-hander, Anthony Alvarado (Columbia Basin), as they plated a run on a pair of hits in the home half of the first inning.
The Pippins (1-2, 29-28) came right back, however, in the form of an unlikely power source, Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois), who drilled his first home run of the season over the right field wall off of Corvallis right-hander, Connor Redmond (Cal Poly-SLO), to knot the score at 1.
It remained a tie game until the bottom of the fourth, when Corvallis went back in front on three straight singles, including an RBI hit from Chad Stevens (Portland), who finished the season 12 for 26 against the Pippins with eight runs batted in.
After stranding a two-out double from Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO) in the top of the fifth, the Pippins strand a pair of runners on base with one out in the sixth inning.
Yakima Valley finally broke through in the seventh with a two-out rally, however, as after another double from Beesley, Tora Otsuka (San Diego) ripped a single into left-field to tie the game at 2.
Corvallis, just as they did any time the Pippins tied the score in game two, had the answer to get ahead again, this time getting a go-ahead RBI in the form of a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Zac Taylor (Oregon State) off right-hander, Connor White (Portland), to take a 3-2 lead.
The Pippins ultimately had no answers for Corvallis left-hander, Kolby Somers (Oregon), in the eighth and ninth innings, who retired six batters in a row to close out the 3-2 win for Corvallis to send them to the WCL Championship Series.
Game Notes: Alvarado made his third start of the season and allowed two runs on eight hits over the course of his five innings of work, and did not factor into the decision. Alvarado finished with a 2.67 ERA in his three starts, which included a complete game shutout against Port Angeles on July 2. White, who came on in relief in the sixth inning, allowed the go-ahead run via the Taylor sacrifice fly in the seventh, and took his second loss to fall to 1-2. His streak of 15 2/3 innings worked without allowing a run was snapped with the sacrifice fly. White finished the regular season as the WCL saves leader, with 11, but had not pitched more than two innings in an outing until tonight.
Redmond started for the Knights and allowed just one run (the Ellis home run) in the second inning, while scattering just five hits. Corvallis left-hander, Miles Glazer (UC Irvine), allowed the game-tying run in the seventh, but earned his third win to improve to 3-0. It was Glazier’s first run allowed in four appearances and 3 1/3 innings of work against Yakima Valley this season. Somers earned his first save of the season by retired the final six Pippins in order.
Final Tallies: With his first inning walk, Otsuka reached base for the 30th consecutive game, dating back to the regular season, which he ended on a 27-game on-base streak. Otsuka also singled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games including the postseason. With two more hits tonight, Otsuka finished the season with a team-leading 16 multi-hit games. Beesley, who doubled twice, finished the season with 14 multi-hit games. He also collected two extra-base hits in a game for the first time since he doubled and homered on July 3 against Kelowna.
Ellis’ second inning home run of the season was his first of the season, and first long ball since he hit his only home run of the year for Western Illinois on March 24 against North Dakota State. The switch-hitter had batted from the left-hand side to hit both of the home runs. With his double in the second inning, Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist) recorded his first extra base-hit since he homered against Bellingham on July 16.
What It Means: With the win, Corvallis will move on to play the Victoria HarbourCats, who disposed of the Kelowna Falcons in two games for the North Division Title, for the West Coast League Championship, with game one beginning on Saturday night in Victoria. Corvallis will then host games two and three (if necessary), by virtue of having the best overall record in the WCL. With four titles, the Knights are just one championship shy of matching the Wenatchee AppleSox for the most all time. The Knights will be making their ninth appearance in the Championship Series.
With the loss, the Pippins season comes to a close in the South Divisional Playoffs. Corvallis has now ended the Pippins’ season for the second straight year, after the Knights swept the Pippins in the South Divisional Playoffs a year ago on their way to a fourth championship. The Pippins finished their fourth season with an overall regular season mark of 28-26, the fewest wins in a single-season in their franchise history, but they did go 17-10 at Yakima County Stadium to match their best home record, set back in 2014. There were many season highlights, including when the Pippins earned their 100th win in franchise history with a 6-3 victory over Wenatchee on June 13. The Pippins ultimately reeled off two five-game winning streaks, had a walk-off win (July 2), and won their first postseason game in franchise history, with a dominant 9-3 victory over Corvallis on Tuesday in game one.
After four years, the Pippins hold a regular season record of 124 wins against 92 losses.
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.