Pitching Leads Pippins to Series Opener Win

Williamson breaks another franchise record in win

The Yakima Valley Pippins rode two great pitching performances to a 4-2 victory in the home series opener against the Bend Elks Tuesday.

Kirby Robertson started on the mound for the Pippins, allowing two runs over six innings while allowing just four hits. He struck out his first batter in his last inning of work, but did walk three.

Robertson and Bend starter Jacob Kmatz held the opposing offenses scoreless until the fourth inning.

In the top of the fourth, Collin Montez – playing in his first game with the Elks – led off with a walk, moved to second on a groundout and scored on a double by Gavin Logan.

Noah Williamson almost single-handedly answered to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning. He singled with one out – his first hit since July 9 – and showed his speed while stealing his fifth base of the season to move to second base. He moved to third base on a wild pitch, and tied the game by scoring on a passed ball.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Chase Graves and Spencer Marenco singled and doubled, respectively, to start the inning, putting them on third and second base and ending Kmatz’ day.

Brooks Juhasz entered in relief, but Blake Dickman scored Graves with a groundout to the shortstop, and Sam Olsson doubled to drive in Marenco and give the Pippins a 3-1 lead.

In Robertson’s final inning on the mound, Montez led off with a double before Sam Linscott singled to put runners on the corners. After Robertson’s first and only strikeout of the night, Gavin Logan hit an awkward line drive to left field that Noah Williamson was able to track down but could not get into a position to throw home, allowing Montez to tag up and score.

Owen Wild came on in relief for the Pippins, walking the first batter of the inning before getting Bryce Boettcher to ground into a double play. Gavin Rork reached on an error before Wild got Greg Fuchs to ground out and end the inning.

The Pippins added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a controversial call in the outfield. Spencer Marenco walked to start the inning, stole second base and moved to third on a groundout by Olsson, putting Williamson at the plate with two outs.

Williamson hit a deep fly ball to left-center that Gavin Rork tracked down and caught on the warning track, but his momentum carried him into the outfield fence, which caused him to drop the ball out of his glove. The umpires ruled that he had not caught the ball, Marenco scored easily and Williamson – sprinting around the bases on the play – slid into third with a triple, his fifth of the season.

After becoming the first Pippins hitter to hit two triples in one game earlier this season, his fifth triple of the season broke the Pippins franchise record. He is tied with Travis Bazzana for the West Coast League lead in that category for this season.

Wild again walked the first batter of the eighth inning, then earned his first strikeout before inducing another double play ball. In the ninth, he started the inning with a strikeout before walking the next two batters. Boettcher then hit a sharp grounder to Bryce Martin-Grudzielanek, who stepped on the third base bag and threw to first to complete the fourth Pippins double play of the game and secure the win.

Wild (2-0, 2.28 ERA) allowed no hits in his three innings and earned his third save of the season. Robertson’s (2-1, 3.90 ERA) quality start earned him the win in the effort.

With the Walla Walla Sweets (12-19, 3-4 in the second half) losing Tuesday night, the Pippins (19-12, 4-3) have taken sole possession of first place in the North Division for the second half. The Elks (12-16, 2-2) and Cowlitz have identical overall and second-half records and share the bottom spot in the South.

The Pippins and Elks continue their series Wednesday on another Baseball Bingo Winning Wednesday presented by St. Joe’s Bingo, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

By Chris Rosato Jr.

July 21, 2021