WALLA WALLA - The last ground ball handled by the Walla Walla Sweets in their home finale of their first West Coast League baseball season was the perfect defensive ending to the home season.
Corvallis' Griffin Boyd bounced a ground ball to Walla Walla's Danny Poplawski at third base. Poplawski turned it into an inning-ending double play as he fired to Denver Chavez at second to force Justin Viele, and Chavez's relay to Dennis Holt was in plenty of time to get Griffin and complete the double play.
Unfortunately for the Sweets and their record-setting crowd of 1,891, the rest of the regular season home finale was anything but sweet.
Corvallis, with the best record in the WCL, scored three unearned runs in the second inning, and three Knight pitchers combined to pitch a six-hitter and blank the Sweets, 7-0.
Corvallis improved to 29-15 and improved its West lead to three games ahead of Bend.
After a scoreless first, Corvallis' David Andriese reached on a Sweets error with one out in the second. Corvallis - winners of eight of their last 10 coming into Monday's game - was ready to take advantage of extra outs.
An RBI single from Thomas McCarthy - his first of three hits on the game - a double steal, and a run-scoring single off the bat of Viele and the Knights had three unearned runs and a 3-0 lead over Sweets' starting pitcher Kody Young.
"Kody pitched fine," said Sweets manager J.C. Biagi. "For the most part he kept the ball down, he just got a few tough breaks. We found ourselves in a hole, and couldn't get out of it."
Young went eight innings, striking out six and scattering six hits, and retired the last six Knights he faced, but the damage had been done.
Daniel Dillard took Young over the left field fence, his fifth home run of the year to highlight a two-run Corvallis third, Andriese led off the Knights' sixth with a triple and scored on Dillard's sac fly, and Young left down 6-0 after eight.
Chris Mendoza, working on the mound for the Knights, stuffed the Sweets offense over his seven innings of work.
Elliot Stewart's one-out single in the fourth broke up Mendoza'a no-hitter, but the Sweets only other hit off Mendoza was a sixth inning single by Adrian Williams.
"They are a very good team," Biagi said. "They have a great pitching staff and they swing it. Any time you play those teams, you've got to bring your ‘A' game."
The Sweets put together three consecutive singles - an infield hit by Williams and by Chavez and Christain Ramirez - with one out in the home eighth.
Dillard fielded Ramirez's hit in right field and fired to catcher Miles Kizer, who blocked Williams off the plate to cut down the only Sweets' scoring threat.
Walla Walla, three games out of the last East play off spot, ends its inaugural season with six on the road beginning tonight at Cowlitz.
"Hopefully, this road trip will go well for us," Biagi said. "The only thing we can control is our end. We'll go out and play well and see how things end up."
The Sweets finish their inaugural home WCL season with a 10-14 WCL home mark, 13-15 overall at Borleske, and lead the WCL in attendance. Walla Walla drew 40,379 in 28 home dates, an average crowd of more than 1,400.
"This has been an unbelievable experience," Biagi said of the first home season. "The support from the community speaks for itself. The guys (on the team) have been an absolute pleasure. We couldn't ask for better attitudes, especially in times when we've struggled.
"Zachary (Fraser, Sweets general manager) has been unbelievable," Biagi continued. "The supporting staff has worked really hard to put (together) what has ultimately become a neat thing for the community. I look forward to everything it brings in the future."
Corvallis 032 001 001 - 7 8 0
Walla Walla 000 000 000 - 0 6 1
Mendoza, Beatty (7), Corwin (9) and Kizer; Young, Windsor (9) and Stewart.
HR - Cor: Dillard.
Hits - Cor: McCarthy 3, Viele, Haniger, Dillard, Andriese, Kizer; WW: Stewart, Williams 2, Daniel, Chavez, Ramirez.