CORVALLIS - You can't give a championship team extra outs.
Walla Walla gave Corvallis two extra outs in the first three innings on Thursday at Oregon State University's Goss Stadium. The Knights made the Sweets pay. Those two extra outs led to three Corvallis runs and Walla Walla dug itself into a 5-2 hole after three, and the Sweets never recovered.
Corvallis went on to an 11-4 victory to win the best-of-three West Coast League championship series 2-0, and claim the 2011 WCL championship. Corvallis finishes at 41-18 in WCL play and adds the 2011 banner to its 2008 title.
The Sweets jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, then lost a pop up in the outfield and the Knights' Ryan Gorton responded with a ball that bounced off the top of the left field wall and left the yard for a three-run bomb and a 3-2 Knights lead after one.
In the home third, Gorton ripped a one-out single and was picked off first. The Sweets throw to second hit Gorton and he slid in safe.
Gorton left second early and the Sweets failed to handle the throw to third that would've retired him: instead Gorton scooted home. With two outs and the inning still alive, Kramer Scott, who had an RBI in each of the Knights' playoff games, kept his streak alive with a two-out RBI single. The Knights led 5-2 after three.
"We have the ball dropped in right field (in the first) and the guy (Gorton) comes up and makes us pay," said Sweets manager J.C. Biagi. "He got a pitch and took advantage of it. That's the mark of a good team. All the credit in the world to them. You make a mistake and the guys come up behind them and take advantage. It (the score) could've looked a lot different. But that's the game of baseball. You can't sit there and reflect on what could have been. You're always moving forward, looking for the next opportunity."
The Sweets got this one off to a quick start. Alex Stanford led off the game with a ringing single to center. One out later, Andrew Mendenhall drove one into the parking lot behind the ‘Hit it Here' sign in left field and the Sweets led 2-0.
"We got pounded (14-3) Tuesday, and today we wanted to come out and flush Tuesday," said Mendenhall, an Oregon Duck, Kennewick native and Southridge High School grad. "We wanted to get off to a good start. I was thinking fastball and he (Knights starter Max Beatty) left it up and I turned on it. That (the two-run first) was what we needed. Our momentum was good."
Gorton's shot erased the lead and the Sweets' momentum as Corvallis answered to grab the lead for good at 3-2 after one.
"They turned it around," Mendenhall said of the Knights answer. "That's baseball. Then it just kind of got out of hand."
Scott's solo homer tacked on one in the fifth for a 6-2 Knights advantage, but the Sweets fought back in the top of the sixth.
Scott Gottschling singled, Brenton Allen drew a walk, and one out later, Kalani Brackenridge's grounder plated Gottschling. Stanford was hit by a pitch, which eventually forced the Gonzaga Bulldog out of the game in the eighth. Denver Chavez worked a walk to load the bases for Mendenhall.
Mendenhall, who had two hits on the night, was batting with the Sweets down 6-3 and represented the potential go-ahead run. Mendenhall hit a drive to center, but didn't get it all and Matt Nylen hauled it in to end the Sweets threat.
Allen's double in the seventh chased Gottschling, who was hit by a pitch, home with the final 2011 Sweets run.
The Sweets complete their second season with a 28-30 WCL mark, a West Division playoff win over defending champion Wenatchee and their first appearance in the WCL championship season.
"Being here was remarkable," Biagi said. "In terms of the struggles we had through the middle of the season, and then winding down the last couple of weeks not even sure we would have the opportunity to be in the playoffs, and then we took hold of the thing. All the credit in the world to our guys. They stayed with us and had faith in what we were doing. What a season."
"Every team (in the league) has a lot of guys that are really good," Mendenhall said. "I had a blast this summer. It was nice being close to home. There were a lot of great teammates and it was by far one of the best summers I've played in."
And with a contingent of Sweets fans in attendance, the fan support, as shown by the record setting 2,380 that showed up on Tuesday night at Borleske, did not go unnoticed by player or manager.
"Oh my gosh. That (fan support) was amazing," Mendenhall said. "Coming out and having the fans have your back every night, they were awesome."
"All the support at Borleske Stadium throughout the season has been unbelievable," Biagi said. "It's been a great summer. I enjoyed every minute of it."
Corvallis 11, Walla Walla 4
Walla Walla 200 001 100 - 4 11 2
Corvallis 302 013 20x - 11 15 0
Anderson, Litchfield (4), Overbay (7) and Hawk; Beatty, Hoover (5), Wetzler (6), Patito (7), Sherfy (8), Young (9) and Gorton.
HR - WW: Mendenhall; Cor: Gorton, Allen, Scott.
Hits - Sweets: Stanford 2, Mendenhall 2, Allen 2, Hawk 2, Heaps, Gottschling, Campbell: Knights: Gorton 3, Scott 3, Moore 3, Allen, Armendariz, Davis, Oleszczuk, Hofmann, Myrom.
A - 1,646