Sweets wrap league play with victory

Walla Walla will begin a best-of-three playoff series with Wenatchee on Friday.

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Sweets pitcher Tyler Billen works his way through the Wenatchee AppleSox lineup early in their Wednesday game at Borleske.

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Walla Walla general manager Zachary Fraser pumps his fist after the Sweets' 3-2 win over Wenatchee to close out the regular season.

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Ranging over behind first base, Sweets' second baseman Denver Chavez (No. 1) makes a back-pedaling grab for the out during the Sweets' Wednesday victory. The victory ends the regular season but the Sweets still have playoff action coming.

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After bobbling a ground ball, Sweets' second baseman Denver Chavez (1) smoothly first to first baseman Austin Heaps (29) for the out during their game against Wenatchee.

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Sweets' base runner Denver Chavez (1) takes long strides, sprinting around third base and toward home to score the third run for the Sweets during their 3-2 victory over the Wenatchee Applesox.

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Sweets second baseman Denver Chavez (1) turns one out at second to find lots of free space to fire over to first in time for the double play against the Wenatchee Applesox Wednesday evening.

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In left-field Nick Gentili (31) performs some solid defense during the Sweets' game against the Wenatchee Applesox.

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Eyeing home plate, Walla Walla Sweets' Austin Heaps (29) rounds third on his way to score off an Elliot Stewart double early during the Sweets' game against the Applesox.

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Sweets pitcher Jimmy Litchfield (46) rears back during his wind-up while pitching against the Wenatchee Applesox Wednesday evening.

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Hanging out with friends in the front row of the bleachers, Benjamin Norris, 8, (left), conducts the Sweets' fan appreciation night fireworks show by timing the throwing his arms out for each explosion of color and sound Wednesday evening. The Sweets put on a firework show to cap-off the regular season but will host a playoff game Friday evening at Borleske against the Wenatchee Applesox.

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With an onion-sized grin on his face, a young Walla Walla Sweets fan races Sweet Lou around the bases Wednesday evening.

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High-fives all around as the Sweets players congratulate each other on closing out the regular season with a 3-2 victory over the first-place Wenatchee Applesox Wednesday evening at Borleske stadium.

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After losing the final game of the regular season to the Walla Walla Sweets, members of the Wenatchee Applesox blur back to their dugout in a long exposure as fireworks begin to light up the sky on fan appreciation night.

WALLA WALLA - Sweets pitcher Tyler Billen made his last outing of the 2011 West Coast League baseball season a memorable one for himself, his teammates and an announced Borleske Stadium crowd of 1,856.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound left-hander allowed just two runs and seven hits over 7 2/3 innings Wednesday night as the Sweets ended regular-season play with a 3-2 victory over East Division champion Wenatchee.

"I (went) out and did my thing, pitched to the best of my ability," said Billen, who is leaving Friday for Weatherford, Okla., to attend Southwest Oklahoma State University. "I haven't pitched this much before."

In fact, not since his senior year at Edmond, Okla., Memorial High School two years ago.

"I threw fastballs and curveballs," Billen said. "I didn't throw a single change-up."

The Sweets and Applesox will square off in the opening round of the WCL playoffs, beginning with game one of a best-of-three series at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Borleske. The scene shifts to Wenatchee for games two and three (if necessary) on Saturday and Sunday.

Corvallis will meet Bend in the West Division series. The Elks clinched the West's second postseason berth Wednesday when Cowlitz lost at home to Corvallis, 2-0.

The Sweets tallied single runs in each of the first two innings of their triumph over Wenatchee.

Alex Stanford led off the first with a four-pitch walk, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, moved to third on a Denver Chavez fly to right field, and scored on a single to deep short by Andrew Mendenhall.

Austin Heaps and Elliot Stewart started inning two with back-to-back doubles. Stewart's two-bagger, a drive to the left-center alley, gave Walla Walla a 2-0 lead.

The Sweets scored their final run in the fifth. Chavez drew a one-out walk and crossed the plate on a Mendenhall double in the left-center gap.

Billen fashioned a four-hit shutout through seven innings before giving up two runs and three hits in the eighth. Ryan Barnes scorched a two-RBI double down the right-field line to draw the Applesox within one.

Brock Gates walked five pitches later and that was all for Billen.

Southpaw Jimmy Litchfield entered the game and retired Conner George on a foul fly to first to end the inning.

Wenatchee put two batters on against Litchfield with one out in the ninth, but failed to score. Litchfield struck out eventual league batting champion Payden Cawley Lamb - who had three hits in the game and ended the season with a .350 average - and got Erik Munzer to fly out to center to seal the save and the win.

"I'm happy with where they're at," Walla Walla manager J.C. Biagi said. "We've built some confidence and belief. We've become a capable team the last three days."

"This one means everything to everybody on the team," Billen said. "Everybody contributed."

Righty Ryan Richardson, who posted a league-best 1.53 earned run average, will start for the Sweets on Friday, according to Biagi.

"Our guys are excited, enthusiastic," Biagi said. "We're ready to jump into this thing."

Walla Walla 3, Wenatchee 2

Wenatchee 000 000 020 - 2 8 0

Walla Walla 110 010 00x - 3 7 0

Ruff, Fabricious (3), Murray (5), Baylis (7), Tygerson (8) and Forbes. Billen, Litchfield (8) and Stewart.

HR - none.

Hits - Wenatchee: Cawley Lamb 3, Munzer, Gates, Nelubowich, Barnes, Daniel. Sweets: Mendenhall 3, Heaps, Stewart, Chavez, Kopacz.

Attend. - 1,856.

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