Pippins’ Defensive Prowess Aids Series-Tying Win

After a rough defensive outing in the previous game, the Yakima Valley Pippins make several key defensive stops to help fuel a thrilling 7-5 victory Saturday against the Portland Pickles on Celebrate America Night at Yakima County Stadium.

Payton Graham, who’s usually on the mound for high-leverage situations, started in right field and on three occasions made “SportsCenter Top 10”-like catches to rob a Pickles batter of extra bases.

Teammate Josh Hankins excelled at shortstop with two diving grabs for outs, including one with a runner on with no outs.

With the score knotted at 4-4, the Pippins scored three in the sixth to take the lead for good. Blake Balsz and Zack Blaszak had back-to-back RBI singles, and a booted grounder hit by Jace Phelan produced the final run.

The Pickles rallied in the ninth, drawing two inning-opening walks before an infield fly led to the first out and a fielder’s choice grounder produced the second out.

A double by Jack Metcho scored a run and put the tying run in scoring position before Jackson Betancourt got a fly out to Graham in right to end the game.

The Pickles scored three runs in the third off new Pippin hurler Zack Elvy and added another off reliever Evan Hamberger, who earned the win with five innings of work.

But Yakima Valley battled back, scoring two in the third on a Phelan double and a sacrifice fly by CJ Colyer and two more in the fourth on an error.

Balsz and Blaszak each finished 2-for-4 for YV, and Hankins was 2-for-5.

The series — and the Pippins’ first-half slate — wraps up at 6:05 p.m. Sunday at The Orchard before the Pippins start second-half play Tuesday in Bend, Oregon.

By Logan Peter

July 2, 2023