WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla Sweets lost the battle here Monday in West Coast League baseball action, but, with an assist from the Kelowna Falcons, the Sweets won the WCL East Division summer war.
Walla Walla was undone by a six-run Wenatchee seventh as the AppleSox improved to a league-best 39-13 with an 8-2 win.
The silver lining to that black cloud was Kelowna's 4-3 win over Bellingham Monday night.
Bellingham's loss clinched the first Sweets playoff spot in their two-year history. Walla Walla dropped to 24-28, but the Bells dropped to 21-31, which gives the Sweets an insurmountable three-game lead on Bellingham with only two regular-season games left.
"Ultimately, (the postseason) comes down to wins and losses," Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. "Over the course of a marathon season, we certainly did (earn the playoff spot).
"We're going to relish the fact that we are going to the playoffs," Biagi continued. "We've got to clean things up from this particular game."
Walla Walla hosts a Friday night opener of a best-of-three series with the team with the best league record - the AppleSox. The series shifts to Wenatchee for games two and three, if necessary, on Saturday and Sunday.
Wenatchee and Walla Walla also close out the regular season at Borleske today and Wednesday.
"We know we're going to see these guys (Wenatchee) for the next five games," Biagi continued. "We're going to get a pretty good look at each other, and (the last two regular season games) gives us the opportunity to align our pitching staff and get some guys ABs (at bats) that need ABs."
The Sweets got off to a quick start Monday. Zach Wentz singled to lead off the home second. Chance Kopacz doubled Wentz to third and Elliot Stewart got Wentz home with a sac fly to right.
Alex Stanford singled to open the Sweets third, and took advantage of an outfield bobble to reach second. Denver Chavez and Andrew Mendenhall were hit by pitches to load the bases, Wentz picked up Stanford with a sac fly to center, and the Sweets led 2-0 after three innings.
On the defensive side, Sweets starter Jacob Overbay took a shutout into the sixth inning - thanks to inning-ending double plays by Sweets shortstop Stanford and second baseman Chavez in the second, third and fourth innings.
"Jacob (Overbay) threw outstanding tonight," Biagi said. "He did get deep into counts and that translates into high pitch counts, and your stuff diminishes a little with high pitch counts."
Ryan Barnes plated the first AppleSox run with a single, and when the Sweets, on an errant Chavez throw, failed to turn their fourth double play, Wenatchee scored the tying run to make it 2-2 after six innings.
Wenatchee exploded in the seventh, sending 11 hitters to the plate, collecting five hits and taking advantage of a wild Sweets pitch and two errors to score six times and break open the 2-2 tie for an 8-2 lead to the home seventh.
"Wenatchee is a good hitting team," Sweets shortstop Stanford said. "Our pitchers left some balls over the plate and they took advantage. They hit the ball well tonight."
"We had the wheels fall off," Biagi said of the Wenatchee seventh. "It (Wenatchee) is not a team you can make mistakes against. You've got to play clean baseball, and locate (pitches) when they're hitting."
AppleSox pitchers, starter Phillip Ferragamo and reliever Keeler Brynteson slammed the door on the Sweets offense following Stewart's single to lead off the fourth.
The Wenatchee pitchers retired the next 14 Sweets in order before Wentz's single with two outs in the eighth ended the streak.
Stanford's third-inning single ran his hitting streak to nine games and kept him on top of the league hitters with a .342 average.
"I'm getting in a rhythm," Stanford said of his hot hitting. "I'm working on things in BP (batting practice) and trying to get a little better every day. It (winning the batting title) is always in the back of your mind, but I just want to help the team win some games."
The Sweets have two games left to solve the AppleSox before squaring off in the first round of the WCL postseason.
"It's good to see them three games before it actually counts," Stanford added. "We'll get a good feel for them and play them hard (the next two games) and you always want to win. It'll be good to win two games and take that momentum into the playoffs. They've got a good pitching staff and some guys that can swing it. (To beat them) we've got to pitch the ball well and take advantage of some balls (their pitchers) leave up in the zone and get some big two out hits."
Wenatchee 8, Walla Walla 2
Wenatchee 000 002 600 - 8 12 1
Walla Walla 011 000 000 - 2 6 4
Ferragamo, Brynteson (7), Jones (9) and DeGuire; Overbay, Mack (7), Christie (7) and Hawk.
HR - none.
Hits - AppleSox: Almadova, Cawley Lamb 3, Gates 2, George, Barnes 2, Valaika, Filia-Snyder 2. Sweets: Wentz 2, Kopacz 2, Stanford, Stewart.
Attend - NA