WENATCHEE - Trailing 4-0 and facing arguably the best pitcher in the West Coast League, the Walla Walla Sweets just kept on fighting Saturday night.
That fight paid off in a five-run rally, and eventual 5-4 win, for a sweep of the Wenatchee Applesox and trip to the WCL Championship round for the first time in team history.
The Applesox scored four runs in the fourth inning and ace Owen Jones was on top of his game.
Jones, the WCL record-holder with seven wins, was cruising through five innings, allowing just four hits and racking up six strikeouts.
It all changed in the sixth. Andrew Mendenhall and Zach Wentz started the inning with sharp-singles and Austin Heaps scored both as he dropped a double just inside the left field line. The two-run double cut the lead in half and set the stage for the eighth-inning rally.
With Jones still on the mound, Chance Kopacz singled to start the frame and Heaps walked to put two on. Jones came back to get a strikeout but Brenton Allen jumped all over a 1-0 pitch and one-hopped it off the center field wall for a game-tying two-run triple.
Wenatchee brought the infield in and Kevin Hawk broke the tie with a single up the middle.
The combination of Jacob Overbay and Simon Anderson made it stand.
Taking over for starter Tim Culligan, Overbay pitched a perfect eighth and after allowing a one-out walk, Anderson closed the door with a pop up and strikeout of Adam Nelubowich.
If not for Culligan, however, the Sweets would not have had a chance.
The right-hander, making his second-straight championship appearance along with Alex Stanford and Sean Santschi, gutted out seven strong. He erased a leadoff single in the first with a 6-4-3 double play and then got a 1-2-3 third.
His best work came after the fourth. In the fourth, the Applesox took advantage of a bobbled double play by the Sweets to score four runs and take a commanding lead. After that, Culligan was lights out. He allowed just one hit the rest of the night, leaving runners on first and second in the sixth, the only real threat Wenatchee would mount.
Walla Walla collected 12 hits on the night, 26 total in the two games. Kalani Brackenridge, Mendenhall, Heaps and Hawk all had two hits on the night, with Heaps and Allen contributing two RBI each.
Eric Filia-Snyder had a pair of hits, including a two-run double in Wenatchee's four-run fourth. Jones ended his night with nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings but allowed five runs on 11 hits.
The come-from-behind victory, their sixth win this summer when behind after seven innings, sends Walla Walla to the WCL Championship round for the first time in team history.
It is also the fourth straight win over Wenatchee in the last six days. Walla Walla will host game one of the championship round on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at Borleske Stadium against either Bend or Corvallis. The Elks and Knights will be a decisive game three today in Corvallis.
Walla Walla 5, Wenatchee 4
Walla Walla 000 002 030 - 5 12 3
Wenatchee 000 400 000 - 4 8 1
Culligan, Overbay (8), Anderson (9) and Hawk; Jones, Bryntseon (8) and DeGuire.