WALLA WALLA - Two-out hitting proved to be the difference Tuesday night during Kelowna's 5-2 victory over the Walla Walla Sweets in the opening game of a three-game set between the two West Coast League East Division baseball teams at Borleske Stadium.
Tyler Chism broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out, RBI single to right field in the ninth inning and Jesse Sawyer followed with a two-run double to left to cap the Falcons' game-deciding rally.
Kelowna, which has now won four straight games, improved to 14-17 and remained 3.5 games behind division-leading Wenatchee.
The Sweets, the unproud owners of a three-game losing streak, fell to 8-19 and 7.5 games off the division pace.
Walla Walla's Elliot Stewart provided some two-out excitement of his own in the first inning that fired up a crowd of 1,481. He produced his team-leading 10th RBI by grounding a single to center off Falcons' starting pitcher A.J. Carman that gave the Sweets a 1-0 edge.
Kelowna took a 2-1 lead in the third against Walla Walla starter Ryan Richardson. Kramer Scott lined a two-out hit to center that scored Brian Wolfe and Chism. The pair started the frame with a double and single, respectively.
"It was a change-up that I didn't get down," Richardson said of the 1-2 delivery to Scott. "I just left that one up."
"Our guys refused to give in - even with two outs," Kelowna manager Kevin Frady said. "I told them (afterward) that championship teams find ways to get two-out RBIs. The kids made great adjustments."
The Sweets evened the score in the home half of the sixth inning. Denver Chavez led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Scott Gottschling, and crossed the plate on a Christian Ramirez double to left.
"I was hoping (we'd take) the next step and (get) a lead before I came out," Richardson said. "Our guys battled up there. Things just didn't roll their way."
Kevin Hawk - the No. 9 hitter in the Kelowna order - was hit by an 0-2 pitch thrown by Walla Walla reliever Jake Haight with one out in the ninth, but was erased when Ben Edelstein hit into a 5-4 fielder's choice.
Paul Politi drew a four-pitch walk before the big hits by Chism and Sawyer.
Carman, who entered the game 0-3 with an 8.51 earned run average, allowed just five hits, struck out three and walked two over six innings.
"A.J. has grown up considerably, matured," Frady said. "I'm proud of his development and confidence."
Tyler Wagner tossed two hitless innings in relief and fanned two to earn his second win in as many decisions. Jordan Westra allowed a lead-off walk to Ramirez in the ninth before retiring the next three hitters - two by strikeout - to register his fifth save.
Richardson lasted seven innings on the bump. The former Walla Walla Community College star scattered nine hits, fanned four and issued just one base on balls.
"Everything was working except the curve ball," Richardson said. "It could have been a little better."
The teams play the middle game of their series tonight at 7:05.
Kelowna 002 000 003 - 5 11 0
Walla Walla 100 001 000 - 2 5 2
Carman, Wagner (7), Westra (9) and Hawk; Richardson, Haight (8) and Stewart.
HR - none.
Hits - Kelowna: Acker 2, Wolfe 2, Chism 2, Sawyer 2, Edelstein, Allbritton, Scott; Walla Walla: Gottschling, Stewart, Matthews, Chavez, Ramirez.
W L PCT GB
Wenatchee 15 11 0.577 -
Moses Lake 12 13 0.480 2.5
Kelowna 14 17 0.452 3.5
Walla Walla 8 19 0.296 7.5
W L PCT GB
Bend 21 9 0.700 -
Kitsap 16 12 0.571 4
Corvallis 16 12 0.571 4
Bellingham 19 16 0.543 4.5
Cowlitz 6 18 0.250 12
Kelowna 5, Walla Walla 2
Wenatchee 9, Moses Lake 4
Kitsap 8, Bend 4
Cowlitz 6, Bellingham 5
Kitsap at Bend, 12:35 p.m.
Cowlitz at Bellingham, 12:35 p.m.
Kelowna at Walla Walla, 7:05 p.m.
Moses Lake at Wenatchee, 7:05 p.m.