Error in seventh inning proves costly
The Pippins suffered their second shutout loss of the season, falling 5-0 to the Cowlitz Black Bears in their series opener Friday.
With the loss, the Black Bears fell to 17-11 in West Coast League play while the Black Bears started their second half improving their overall record to 11-14.
Both teams’ starting pitchers battled it out for the first six innings, with Cowlitz starter Kelly Austin working more efficiently. He struck out seven batters over his first six innings and faced just 19 without allowing a runner past first base.
Pippins starter Kenny Johnson struck out five batters in his first six innings, but allowed six hits and faced 25 batters in that time.
He earned his sixth strikeout to start the seventh inning, but a pair of walks and a single ended his day. Owen Wild entered in relief with the bases loaded and one out.
Wild got Jacob Stinson to hit a hard grounder to second baseman Mason Marenco, but Marenco muffed the potential inning-ending double play ball, instead allowing two runners to score.
After striking out Broc Mortensen for the second out, Henry Muench hit a ground-ruled double that bounced on the right field corner warning track and over the fence leading to the Pippins bullpen, scoring a third run. Kase Ogata singled to score Stinson and Muench and give the Black Bears a 5-0 lead.
As the first three runners to score were charged to Johnson, he was tagged with the loss, falling to 3-3 on the season. Only one of the runs were earned, so his ERA did fall slightly to 5.11.
Austin pitched another two shutout innings, finishing eight scoreless with nine strikeouts and having allowed just three hits and one walk. He needed just 86 pitches and only faced two batters over the minimum in his outing. His 45 strikeouts and 1.54 ERA lead the WCL, but his win Friday was his first decision of the season in five starts.
Wild (2-0, 2.61 ERA) gave way to Case Matter for the bottom of the eighth inning, who walked Jaden Sheppard to start the inning but benefited from a batter’s interference call. The umpires incorrectly ruled Sheppard out and allowed the batter, Matthew Schwarz, to continue with a 2-2 count. Schwarz struck out looking on the next pitch for the second out.
After allowing a single, Matter (0-0, 11.81 ERA) induced a flyout in foul territory to end the inning.
Austin gave way to James Bradwell in the ninth inning, who struck out the first two Pippins hitters and induced a groundout to complete the combined three-hit shutout.
The Pippins and Black Bears continue their series Saturday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. due to fireworks planned for after the game. Tyler Frieders (3-1, 2.42 ERA) is scheduled to start on the mound for the Pippins.