Pippins ride two long balls, Fernandes' first two RBI to victory
The Yakima Valley Pippins officially ended the first half of their season on a high note with a 6-4 victory in Walla Walla, riding two long balls in the effort.
The Pippins return home to start the second half of the season Friday at 7:05 p.m. as they take on the Bellingham Bells on Cider Night, presented by Tieton Cider Works.
Sweets starter Travis Craven entered the game tied for the league lead in wins (3), having issued just three walks in nearly 26 innings pitched, but walked two Wednesday in an uncharacteristic showing.
The Pippins got to Craven first in the second inning, as Alex Shanks doubled with one out and moved over to third on an infield base hit from Chase Graves. Graves stole his second base of the season, allowing him and Shanks to score on a base hit up the middle by Alex Fernandes.
Kenny Johnson started on the mound for Yakima Valley, retiring the first three batters he faced before allowing a run in the second inning with a leadoff double and then single.
The Pippins added to their lead in the fourth inning after Craven issued his second walk of the game to Willie Lajoie to start the inning. With one out, Alex Shanks hit a line drive 355-feet to left field for his second two-run home run of the series. Shanks was without a home run coming into the series.
Craven (3-2, 3.94 ERA) was lifted after that fourth inning and tagged with the loss as the Pippins would hold onto their lead for the rest of the game.
Johnson hit his first batter of the game with one out in the fourth inning, and Matthew Clark hit a two-run home run in his first game with the Sweets to put the Sweets within one, 4-3. After the home run, Johnson retired the next eight batters to finish his outing after six complete innings.
The Pippins had another two-run inning in the sixth, when Mason Marenco hit his first home run of the season with Lajoie on first base to give the Pippins a 6-3 lead. Both Pippins home runs had 94 miles-per-hour exit velocities, while Marenco’s blast traveled 396 feet.
Owen Wild came on for a three-inning save and struck out three of the first four batters he faced to get through the first inning unscathed.
In the eighth inning, he gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning that put runners on the corners before William Grimm hit a sacrifice fly to center field for the first out and a run that cut the Pippins lead to 6-4.
He escaped the eighth without allowing any further runs and got two quick outs in the ninth before walking two batters to bring the winning run to the plate, but struck out Colin Wetterau for his sixth strikeout of the appearance to hold off the Sweets.
Johnson (3-2, 6.03 ERA) took the win while Wild (2-0, 2.70 ERA) locked down his second save of the season.