Walla Walla Sweets once again don't sweat early deficit

Walla Walla trails 5-0 before scoring seven sixth-inning runs to down WCL-leading Bend, 7-6, Thursday night.

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Walla Walla third baseman Marshall Yanzick stays focused as he tracks down the ball, makes the stop and gets the out to second base in the fifth inning against Bend Thursday night at Borleske.

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Walla Walla's Elliot Stewart (right) races the ball as Bend third baseman Stephen Halcomb waits for the throw after Stewart took advantage of the third-inning overthrow to first base. Stewart was safe on the play.

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Walla Walla second baseman Denver Chavez makes the fourth-inning stop (above) off a bad hop and fires off-balance to first.

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Walla Walla Sweets' Denver Chavez watches from the ground (right) as the Bend runner is safe at first base.

WALLA WALLA - For the third night in a row, Walla Walla proved the Sweets don't sweat early deficits.

Down 5-0, thanks to Bend pitcher Jordan Remer's two-hit, seven-strikeout performance through five innings, it appeared the West Coast League's best team was about to make the Bulbs' night bitter.

But Remer and the Bend bullpen blew up in the sixth inning, and the Sweets benefited to the tune of seven runs in the inning.

The Sweets held on through a tense top of the ninth before finally tanning the Elks' hides, 7-6, at Borleske Stadium here Thursday night.

Bend got on the board in the first inning with a run-scoring groundout by Riley Tompkins off Sweets starter Ryan Richardson.

The Elks scored again in the second when designated hitter Andy Hunter's leadoff solo shot rang the steel on the left-field light pole high above the mini-Blue Monster.

Richardson ran into trouble again with one down in the fifth. The slight righty surrendered four consecutive hits - a single, triple, double, and single - and three runs in the inning, burgeoning the deficit to five runs.

The Sweets came alive offensively in the sixth, though their bats rarely left their shoulders. Practicing patience, Walla Walla hitters coaxed Remer and two Bend relievers into issuing eight free passes on five walks and three hit batters.

Offensive juggernaut Elliot Stewart led off the inning for Walla Walla with his fourth extra base hit in three nights, a double drilled deep into the right center field gap. Andy Matthews followed with the first of his two hit-by-pitch at bats. Sweets batters Dennis Holt and Matt Comer then walked to bring Remer's night to a close and provide Walla Walla its first run of the game.

Right-handed reliever Nick Loredo got lefty Christian Ramirez to ground a double-play ball to short stop in his first mound action, but Bend was unable to complete the deuce. While Comer was called out at the two-bag, Ramirez reached safely on Tommy Richards' errant throw to first. Both Matthews and Holt scored on the play, and Ramirez advanced to second.

Scott Gottschling, the sixth batter of the inning, kissed the grass just inside the foul line with a looper to right, scoring Ramirez.

Loredo next hit Marshall Yanzick with a pitch before walking Kevin Kuntz on four straight tosses to reload the bases.

Loredo was replaced by Oregon State's Nick Stiltner, but Stiltner fared no better, issuing Denver Chavez a four-pitch walk in the next at bat. The walk forced Gottschling home and the game to a five-all tie.

Stiltner rallied to strike out Stewart, but hit Matthews with a pitch to give the Sweets their first lead. Stiltner then issued another walk - this time on a 3-2 count to Holt - to boost the lead to two, 7-5.

Elks reliever Enoch Deaton then came on to strike out Comer and end the inning.

In the top of the eighth, Sweets reliever Jacob Overbay replaced Richardson. Overbay set the side down in order in the inning, but ran into trouble in the ninth. Bend's Richards, the WCL leader in most offensive categories, reached base on a Kuntz error to start the inning. Overbay regrouped and struck out Tompkins, but, with a full count, issued a base-on-balls to Halcomb.

With runners at first and second, Bend's star of the night, Hunter doubled off the left-center-field wall. Richards scored, while Halcomb played it safe holding up at third.

Sweets manager J.C. Biagi called for the intentional walk of Garrett Queen to load the bases and set up the double play, then called to the bullpen for reliever A.J. Burke.

Burke struck out catcher Mitch Karraker with a high fastball for the second out of the inning, but left a pitch out over the plate that outfielder Kerry Jenkins lined deep to the gap to the left of Gottschling in center field. Gottschling gave chase, diving for the ball and snagging it just inches above the grass. He quickly scrambled to his feet, glove aloft, proving his catch to the second-base umpire and fans, who roared in approval.

"It was hit pretty hard, and I thought I got a good jump on it," said Gottschling. "I started running the gap, and I knew that either I made the play or they'd take the lead."

The triumph extends the Sweets official win streak to three games - Tuesday's and Wednesday's victories versus the Stars not counting in the official statistics.

"We kept the five-game (win) streak going," said Matthews. "We're going for six tomorrow. It's always fun when you win in this kind of atmosphere with a diving catch to save the game. It's a good game. It's a fun game. That's why we wake up to play it."

The Sweets and the Elks square off in game two of the three game set tonight at Borleske at 7:05 p.m.

Elks 110 030 001 - 6 12 2

Sweets 000 007 00x - 7 5 2

Remer, Loredo (6), Stiltner (6), Deaton (6) and Higgs, Karraker (8); Richardson, Overbay (8), Burke (9) and Stewart.

HR - Bend: Hunter.

Hits - Bend: Collins 3, Smith, Richards, Tompkins, Holcomb, Hunter 3, Queen, Higgs; WW: Kuntz, Chavez, Stewart 2, Gottschling.

WCL Standings

East Division

W L PCT GB

Wenatchee 19 13 0.594 -

Moses Lake 16 18 0.471 4

Kelowna 18 22 0.450 5

Walla Walla 12 21 0.364 7.5

West Division

W L PCT GB

Bend 25 13 0.658 -

Corvallis 21 14 0.600 2.5

Kitsap 19 16 0.543 4.5

Bellingham 19 18 0.514 5.5

Cowlitz 9 23 0.281 13

Thursday's Games

Corvallis 4, Moses Lake 1

Wenatchee 2, Bellingham 1

Kelowna 10, Cowlitz 1

Walla Walla 7, Bend 6

Today's Games

Wenatchee at Bellingham, 6:35 p.m.

Kelowna at Cowlitz, 6:35 p.m.

Moses Lake at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

Bend at Walla Walla, 7:05 p.m.

Saturday's Games

Bend at Walla Walla, 6:05 p.m.

Moses Lake at Corvallis, 6:35 p.m.

Kelowna at Cowlitz, 6:35 p.m.

Wenatchee at Bellingham, 6:35 p.m.

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