YAKIMA, Wash. – A 4-run top of the 8th inning for the Victoria HarbourCats propelled them to a win and a series split at Yakima County Stadium on Thursday night, as they took the last game of the 5-game, season-opening homestand for the Yakima Valley Pippins by a final score of 5-3. The homestand ends for the Pippins with a 4-1 record.
The night started off well enough for the Pippins (6-2), who jumped out to an early lead for just the second time over the homestand. An RBI single up the middle from Daniel Cipriano off of Victoria (4-4) starter Dillon Larsen scored Tyler Pittman (who walked), and the Pippins had a 1-0 lead. Victoria quickly answered back off of Mark Finkelnburg in the second inning with an unearned run coming in off of a miscommunication from the left side of the Pippins infield to tie it at 2.
Finkelnburg ran into some more trouble in the fourth, walking two batters, but was replaced by A.J. Wood, who used a strikeout and groundout to work out of the jam. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Pippins used 3 walks to force Larsen out of the game, and took back the lead when Pittman drew a bases-loaded free pass. Both starters took no-decisions without completing the fourth inning. Finkelnburg allowed the one unearned run on 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts, while Larsen surrendered two runs on 4 hits, 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts.
The Pippins briefly grabbed back the lead off of Victoria reliever Joseph Brandon in the 7th inning. Henry Gargus hit a bloop opposite-field single with two outs and stole second a few pitches later. The next batter, Pippins newcomer Spencer Bramwell, drove in his first run of the summer with a hard ground ball through the right side of the infield. From there, a litany of bullpen issues doomed the Pippins from completing the sweep.
Jack Gonzales was strong in his first inning of relief, and started off the top of the 8th inning with two quick groundouts. But after a walk to Matt Clayton, right fielder Christian Padilla lost a fly ball from Tyler Pettit in the lights that would have ended the inning. Gonzales was relieved by Nick Brown, who gave up a single to pinch-hitter Frankie Niemann that cut the lead to 3-2. A batter later, pinch-hitter Harrison Spohn struck out, but reached on a dropped third strike that allowed the tying run to score. Parker Bramlett followed with a two-run single into right field to cap off the big inning.
Matt Amrhein, Victoria’s closer, came in in the bottom of the ninth and got a double play ball after a hit by pitch of Pittman to secure his third save of the year. Brandon picked up his second win of the year, while Brown took his first loss for the Pippins.
With both Port Angeles and Bellingham losing as well on Thursday, the Pippins held steady to their 1.5 game lead in the WCL North Division. The Pippins travel to Bellingham on Friday to open up a three game weekend series with the Bells. First pitch for Friday’s series opener is set for 6:35 PM PT at Joe Martin Field. The Pippins will start left-hander Cameron Liss. Bellingham has not announced a projected starter. Pregame coverage with Miles Klotz (radio only) begins at pippinsbaseball.com/live at 6:20 PM.