Pippins now hold 23-5 overall record at home, 14-5 in WCL play
The Yakima Valley Pippins went on an offensive tear Tuesday in their series opener against the Cowlitz Black Bears to open a five-game homestand.
The Pippins (24-13, 9-4 in the second half) boosted their lead in the North Division and are now two games ahead of Bellingham after the 12-8 victory over the Black Bears, while Cowlitz (16-18, 6-4) lost a game in their chase and are now two games behind Corvallis.
Peyton Stumbo started on the mound for the Pippins and turned in a serviceable start despite not having his best stuff. He allowed a triple to Rikuu Nishida to start the game, and Nishida scored on a groundout to put Cowlitz up 1-0.
Cowlitz starter Carson Angeroth put together a 1-2-3 first inning, but the Pippins got to him in the second after Noah Williamson led off with a single to right field.
Willie Lajoie hit a sharp grounder to third base that could have been turned into a double play had Nishida not thrown it away while making the turn to first base. Lajoie reached while Williamson was out at second for the first out. Blake Dickman then singled to put runners on the corners, and Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek hit a double to score Lajoie and tie the game.
Dickman would score on a wild pitch to give the Pippins the lead they would never relinquish, but the Pippins weren’t done. After Austin Plante walked, Corey Jarrell hit a line drive to the center field fence and raced around for his first triple of the season, scoring both runners.
Spencer Marenco walked on a full count to put runners on the corners with one out, and Nishida again botched a potential double play to bring home Jarrell and give the Pippins a 5-1 lead.
Stumbo kept the Black Bears from scoring again until the fourth inning, when he walked two, allowed a run to score on a single by Sean Mulcare and the other scored on a wild pitch. He was lifted after walking his sixth batter of the game.
Stumbo (1-1, 5.47 ERA) finished having struck out just one, allowing two hits over 3.1 innings, and was not eligible for the win. Payton Robertson entered with runners on first and second with one out.
Nishida laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt, and the runners were able to advance while Sam Olsson threw him out at first base. Robertson got a groundout to end the threat.
The Pippins added to their lead with a three-run fifth inning, started by Sam Olsson walking, moving to second on a wild pitch and scoring on a single by Lajoie against Cowlitz reliever Jake Dent. The Black Bears then turned to Keegan Wright.
Wright immediately allowed a double to Blake Dickman that scored Lajoie. Martin-Grudzielanek followed with a single to put runners on the corners, and the Pippins got tricky with their baserunning. Martin-Grudzielanek executed a delayed steal to second base, allowing Dickman to swipe home when Cowlitz tried to make the play at second. Both runners wound up safe, and the Pippins took an 8-3 lead.
After Cowlitz got a run back in the top of the sixth, the Pippins executed an almost identical play to add a run. This time, Chaz Myers was actually caught stealing second base while Spencer Marenco scored.
Robertson (2-2, 6.04 ERA) allowed a run in the seventh and two unearned in the eighth innings. He was credited with the win for his relief efforts.
The Pippins added three more runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take a 12-7 lead, and Landon Schirer was called upon for the ninth inning.
Schirer loaded the bases with no outs to start the inning, but got a flyout – which scored a run – and two swinging strikeouts to end the game. This was just the second non-save appearance for Schirer (0-0, 1.38 ERA) this season.
With the win, the Pippins are now 23-5 at home overall, and 14-5 in West Coast League play. They’ll look to improve those numbers in game two against the Black Bears Wednesday. Another Baseball Bingo Winning Wednesday kicks off at 6:35 p.m.