CORVALLIS, Or.- There were 4 or 5 distinct plays that could have drastically impacted the outcome of the 3-1 Pippins loss that went the Knights way in game 3 of the series.
After finding minimal success at the plate in the first two games at Goss Stadium, the Pippins starting barreling pitches and saw a superb first start from Michael Splaine.
Splaine had one relief appearance against Springfield before this game, but his 3/4 arm slot and nasty movement from the left side tormented the 5-time defending WCL champs.
Splaine didn’t allow his first hit until 2 outs in the 4th, and finished the first 5 innings without allowing a run.
This gave ample time for the Pippins offense to try and find their first lead of the series against the Knights. It looked like they would in the 3rd inning, when 2 singles had runners at first and second, one out, and the top of the order at the plate.
Hank Dunn hit what was likely his hardest hit ball of the season off the bat, but a full extension dive from shortstop Spencer Scott robbed a hit and a run as he doubled off the baserunner.
This would foreshadow the remainder of the Pippins’ chances in the game. The offense would slow down and eventually the Knights would break the scoreless tie in the 6th.
Splaine returned to the mound in the 6th inning and allowed a leadoff single. The next batter was the dangerous Kiko Romero, who popped a routine fly ball to left on a hit-and-run. The Pippins outfield dropped the fly ball resulting in a two-base error and a potential 2-out swing.
This left 2 in scoring position with no one out, and a 2 RBI single followed by an RBI double would give the Knights a 3-0 lead.
Splaine would finish with 6 innings of work allowing only 2 earned runs on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts.
Yakima Valley wouldn’t go away however, and in the 7th a leadoff double and a walk created a promising opportunity with runners on the corners and one away.
New outfielder Seth Ryberg out of Point Loma looked to drop in a single in left, but a diving catch from Titus Dumitru stole another hit. This took away tons of momentum even though the sacrifice fly plated the first Pippins run.
There were even more chances in the 8th when the Pippins loaded the bases with 1 out. A groundball with the infield in saw a close play at the plate just nab the runner and prevent the run from scoring.
Tyler Griggs would hit with 2 away and the bases still loaded after having a hit stolen in the 1st and two missile line drive outs on the day.
He would barrel another one that sent Dumitru back to the track, but a leaping catch against the wall stole extra bases and what would’ve been at least 2 game-tying runs.
Ethan Ross would strike out the side for the Knights in the 9th and secure the 3-game sweep over the Pippins.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Yakima Valley who fought until the end, but the stellar, all-around defensive play from Corvallis earned them the win.
The Pippins are back home for a long home stand, with a non-league game on Monday against the Cascade League Showcase team, followed by back-to-back home series against Bend and Portland.
First pitch for Monday’s contest is 7:05, it’s a fireworks night, and tickets are available on pippins.com/tickets.