SPRINGFIELD, Or.- Entering this game, Pippins starting pitching was averaging 6.25 runs allowed per outing. That changed today after a superb effort left the Drifters with just 1 run in the 3-1 victory.
Coming off of a 3-game losing streak, the Pippins went to a fresh addition to the roster from UC Santa Barbara for the start. Michael Rice had a 6-1 record with the Gauchos this season, and carried his skill over to the Pippins in his debut.
The first 3 innings would fly by with both teams scoreless. Springfield Drifters’ starting pitcher Theo Millas would go 9 up and 9 down the first time through the order, but Rice would match that effort with 4 K’s and an inning ending double-play in the 3rd.
Yakima Valley would find their offensive spark in the 4th, as Pippins returner and WCC Defensive Player of the Year Connor Coballes would pick up the first Pippins hit of the game. Tyler Griggs would be hit by a pitch the next at-bat, and with 2 on and 2 out, Spencer Shipman would break the tie with a carrying home run to left field to make it 3-0.
That’s all the offense that the Pippins needed, as Rice ended his afternoon with 5 innings of work allowing 1 run on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts.
After that it was all up to the bullpen. First up was Rice’s UCSB teammate and another new addition Michael Splaine. The 3/4 arm slot lefty mowed through batters in the 6th going 1-2-3, and then left the bases loaded in the 7th.
Drifters relievers held serve and it would be 3-1 heading to the 8th. Yakima native Blake Leaverton would come in for his 3rd appearance of the year and he would not disappoint.
He would retire the heart of the lineup in order to send us to the final frame. In the 9th, back-to-back 1 out walks put the tying run on base. Leaverton started behind in the count 3-0 to the next batter but battled back to make it full and eventually earned a ground out.
The final hitter popped up to left and the catch was made sealing the save for Leaverton and the win for the Pippins.
Spencer Shipman finished 2-4 with his 3-run homer, and Michael Rice earned the win in his first outing with his solid start.
The Pippins have a chance to win their first series of the year tomorrow at 6:35, with the audio stream starting at 6:20 on mixlr.com/pippinsbaseball.