Blue Devils win baseball showdown with Bombers

The teams entered Friday's twin bill tied atop the Big Nine, but Wa-Hi sweeps Richland to take a two-game league baseball lead.

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Wa-Hi third baseman Jake Jimenez (11) closes his eyes momentarily as the ball the ball hits the webbing of his glove to field a grounder before throwing to first.

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Richland's Syd Hall (12) spins in the batters box after missing a sacrifice bunt as WaHi catcher Conner Holbrook (4) comes up firing to catch a Bomber runner caught between third and hom on the squeeze play.

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Wa-Hi's Michael Pontarolo (18) and Kevin Toon (3) high-five each other with their gloves after working the second base end of a double play Friday afternoon against Richland.

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Wa-Hi baserunner Michael Pontarolo (18) rounds third on his way toward home for the Blue Devils' first run during their 2-0 victory over Richland Friday afternoon.

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Wa-Hi head coach Kieth Gradwohl between innings during the Blue Devils' game against the Richland Bombers.

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Wa-Hi's Josh Eggers (2) looks over as he slides in to first base on a pick-off play after Richland first baseman Dillan Klute (24) tagged him for the out.

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Aggressive base running from Wa-Hi's Josh Eggers (2) leaves him out at third base as the dust clears during the Blue Devils' game against Richland Friday afternoon.

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Lined up to receive the throw for an out, WaHi first baseman Jake Campeau (30) peers over his glove to record a Richland out during the first game of their Friday double header.

WALLA WALLA - Champions just win.

Wa-Hi defeated Richland, behind Drew Christina's three-hitter, in a pitchers' dual, 2-0, in the opener of a Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A baseball twin bill at Murr Field Friday.

The Blue Devils completed the sweep with an 11-run, eight-hit sixth inning to break open a 4-4 tie and post a 15-4 win.

Richland and Wa-Hi came into the battle for first place with identical 6-0 league marks.

Wa-Hi improves to 8-0 and has a two-game lead on the league with four games left.

"This (the sweep) was just another step to the district tournament," Blue Devil coach Keith Gradwohl said. "It was extremely positive. We're really happy, but we've got more work to do."

In the opener, Richland's Mason Hilty took a two-hit shutout to the Wa-Hi fifth.

In the scoreless deadlock, Michael Pontarolo took a Hilty pitch off his jersey to open the Blue Devil fifth.

Brett Christina singled to put runners at the corners with one out.

Conner Holbrook delivered the first Blue Devil run with a single. Richland misplayed Moe Handcox's grounder and Sean Hollenbeck, who was running for Brett Christina, scooted home with an insurance run.

Drew Christina made those runs stand up as the southpaw retired the last six Bombers in order to nail down the 2-0 Blue Devil win.

"I have faith in our offense," Drew Christina said. "Once we get the lead, my approach doesn't change. I tell myself that I have to pitch like I have up to this point because it has been successful."

The Bombers' only threat came in the fourth. Hits from Zach Rapacz and Kenton Brunson, coupled with a walk, loaded the bases with one out.

Syd Hall missed a suicide squeeze and Wa-Hi caught Rapacz in a rundown for the second out. Drew Christina enticed Hall to fly out to end the threat.

The Wa-Hi pitching staff was working on two days rest having swept Moses Lake Tuesday, but Drew Christina responded with the complete-game three-hitter.

"The weather helped a lot," Drew Christina said of getting ready on two days rest. "My arm has always been able to get ready in warm weather. My arm, before I knew it, was all loosened up and ready to go."

"Drew can come back and throw Tuesday, Friday," Gradwohl said. "Drew giving us a complete game was big. That gave us a two-headed horse (pitchers Matt Watson and Jake Campeau) for game two."

Drew Christina ran his season record to 8-0 and finished with nine strikeouts, five of those called third strikes on curve balls.

"It (the curve ball) had a lot of late break today," Drew Christina said. "I try to really snap it off. It was falling in for a strike every time I did that. I just let it rip."

Game two was tied at 4-4 after three innings and stayed 4-4 until the home sixth.

Jake Jimenez lined a base hit to right to innocently lead off the Blue Devil sixth.

Kevin Toon followed with a double and Wa-Hi had something cooking.

"Kevin told me that we were going to get this (sixth inning) started," Jimenez said. "He told me I was going to get a single and he was going to get a double. I was looking for a curve ball and hoping he (Bomber pitcher Rapacz) would leave it up for me. That's what I got. It lit a fire under us."

Campeau followed with a sac fly to plate Jimenez and the Blue Devils took the lead at 5-4 with one out.

"I was just happy to get the sacrifice fly to put us in the lead," Campeau said. "Something just caught fire. Then we were all hitting, hit after hit after hit."

Taylor Lemke doubled home two, Brett Christina knocked in one, Holbrook singled, Handcox doubled in a run, Jimenez collected his second hit of the inning, and Toon reached on an error to load the bases for Campeau with Wa-Hi in front 11-4.

"Coming up with a chance to put the game away (via the 10-run rule) was exciting," Campeau said. "I got a fastball up in the zone and I was able to take it opposite field and put it over the fence."

Campeau's grand slam ended it and gave Wa-Hi the 15-4 win.

"That's three for me," Campeau said of his third career grand slam. "Two were in Little League all stars, both of them were against a Richland team, so every grand slam in my career is against Richland."

Campeau, who came on in relief of Wa-Hi starter Watson in the fifth, worked a perfect two innings to earn the win.

"I can gauge what pitches he (Watson) is having success with," Campeau said of his relief appearance. "It (relieving) is a different experience than starting. Knowing you don't have to hold anything back is nice."

If there was a nick in Blue Devil armor, it showed up with four second-game errors.

"We uncharacteristically made four errors," Gradwohl said. "We had made only 11 all year. We are promoting that we can still be better."

It was normally dependable shortstop Toon and third baseman Jimenez that came up with the errors, but both quickly redeemed them selves. Toon made a back-hand play deep in the hole and threw out Richland's Hilty in the sixth, and then closed out the sixth by charging a slow roller and nailing Corey Morris.

Jimenez took a ground ball at deep third base and gunned down Syd Hall for the second out in the fifth.

"Our coach always tells us to flush it," Jimenez said of forgetting previous misplays. "That's the key. To get over it (the errors) and do what we can do next."

Wa-Hi wraps up the regular season with league games at Davis Tuesday and at Wenatchee Friday.

"We've got to keep our focus because league is not over," Drew Christina said. "If we want to lock up that first-place spot, we've got four games that are just as big as these two."

First Game

Richland 000 000 0 - 0 3 2

Wa-Hi 000 020 x - 2 6 0

Hilty and Turner; D. Christina and Holbrook.

Hits - RHS: Poznanski, Papacz, Brunson; Wa-Hi: Toon 2, Holbrook 2, B. Christina, Jimenez.

Second Game

Richland 022 000 - 4 5 4

Wa-Hi 130 00(11) - 15 14 4

Hall, Rapacz (3), Klute (6) and Turner, Morris (3); Watson, Campeau (5) and Holbrook.

HR - Wa-Hi: Campeau.

Hits - RHS: Klute 2, Moore, Imhoff, Johnson; Wa-Hi: Handcox 3, B. Christina 2, Holbrook 2, Toon 2, Pontarolo, Jimenez 2, Campeau, Lemke.

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