Pitcher’s Triple Caps Off Huge Win Over Highline

Ten extra-base hits lead the way in win

The Yakima Valley Pippins finished their last non-league game of the season with a bang, winning 22-2 against the Highline Bears Saturday.

In the bottom of the eighth with the game well in hand, pitcher Kenny Johnson pinch-hit for Alex Shanks against Highline two-way player Trey Hunt. With Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek on first base, Johnson worked himself to a 2-2 count and fouled a pitch off before pounding a line drive over right fielder Tyler Black’s head. Johnson raced around and dove head-first into third base for a triple after the relay throw hit him between the shoulder blades on his way to the bag.

Johnson’s hit was the last of 15 for the Pippins, and the 10th extra-base hit of the night.

The Pippins put together four hits, including three consecutive RBI doubles, to get out to an early 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Kirby Robertson started on the mound for the Pippins and was perfect through the first eight batters of the game. In the third inning, the Bears strung together three singles to bring home a run.

Austin Plante answered for the Pippins in the bottom of the third by launching a two-run home run to right field to give the Pippins a 7-1 lead.

The Bears scored their final run of the game in the fourth, capitalizing on an error by Connor Coballes on a hard-hit grounder to shortstop. A walk forced the runner to second, and he scored on a single by Kellen Harding.

Robertson would earn the win with five solid innings, allowing just the two runs (one earned) while striking out four.

The Pippins offense continued to pile on with a four-run fifth inning. Keegan Adams, who had just pitched a scoreless fourth inning, walked Austin Plante to start the inning before striking out the next two hitters. He would then walk Coballes, and Taylor Holder brought in both runners with a double. After Sam Olsson was hit by a pitch, Willie Lajoie blasted a three-run home run to left-center to give the Pippins a 12-2 lead.

The Pippins added six more in the sixth despite recording just two hits. Plante doubled to left field to start the inning. After a groundout, Alex Fernandes hit a fly ball to center field that was dropped, allowing Fernandes to reach second and Plante to move up to third base. Highline pitcher Skyler Manelski then hit Chaz Myers – pinch-hitting for Coballes – to load the bases and balked home a run.

A second consecutive hit batter loaded the bases again before a walk to Sam Olsson forced home the second run of the inning. Blake Dickman – hitting for Lajoie – hit a chopper to the shortstop that was misplayed up the middle, scoring a run while everyone was safe and the bases remained loaded.

Manelski was able to get a strikeout for the second out, but the defense again came up short as Alex Shanks dropped a bloop single into center field that scored one easily. The Bears tried to throw out Olsson attempting to score from second base, but the ball skipped off the catcher’s glove. Dickman seized the opportunity to score from third base, and Manelski had trouble retrieving the ball before he slid in to give the Pippins an 18-2 lead.

Julian Taudin-Chabot pitched the sixth and seventh innings, striking out three while not allowing a hit in two scoreless innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, Corey Jarrell and Fernandes both walked, moved up a bag on a  groundout and scored on two wild pitches to give the Pippins a 20-2 lead.

Dylan Bishop took over in the eighth, striking out the side to preserve the lead.

After his triple brought the Pippins dugout to its feet, Johnson would later score on a sacrifice fly for the final Pippins run of the game.

Peyton Stumbo closed down the ninth inning, striking out the last two batters in a 1-2-3 inning to secure the win.

The Pippins will take Sunday and Monday off before kicking off a six-game road trip with a visit to Corvallis Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Live audio-only coverage of the games will be provided by Chris Rosato Jr. at PippinsBaseball.com/Live.

By Chris Rosato Jr.

August 1, 2021