BELLINGHAM - Eleven hits is usually enough to win a ballgame, but when those 11 hits only equal one run it's a little tougher.
That was the Walla Walla Sweets on Tuesday night. Walla Walla collected 11 hits but left 11 men on base and never recovered from an early 3-0 hole, losing 4-1 to the Bellingham Bells at Joe Martin Field.
Trailing 1-0 after the first and 3-0 after two, the Sweet threatened a comeback all night but never could get the big hit.
James Campbell and Kalani Brackenridge both collected bunt singles in the second with two outs to start a rally. On Brackenridge's bunt, Bells starter Chris Howard threw the ball wide of first, allowing both runners to move up a base, but Howard squashed the rally with a strikeout.
After giving up two runs in the second, Denver Chavez started the third with a sharp single but was erased on an Andrew Mendenhall fielder's choice. Alex Stanford followed that with a opposite-field single to put two on but Howard got a pop out and fly out to end the frame.
Walla Walla then collected two more hits in the fourth but was again stymied by Howard. The Sweets got a one-out double from Mendenhall in the fifth but couldn't score, then had runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth and again couldn't score.
All the while, Cory Mack kept them in the game. The left-hander from Seattle was called on in the third inning after starter Doug Christie gave up three runs on five hits.
Mack quickly set the tone for the rest of the game. He worked around a two-out walk in the third, a two-out single in the fourth and allowed his only run of the night on a wild pitch in the sixth. Mack went six innings and allowed just two hits and struck out two, lowering his ERA from 13.50 to 3.68.
He got some defensive help along the way from his teammates. In the fourth, former Sweet Marshall Yanzick drove a pitch to deep left that had Campbell on the run. Showing his versatility in the field, Campbell raced back and made a full-out dive to catch the ball on the warning track for the first out. Mendenhall helped out in the eighth, ending the inning with a sliding catch on a sinking liner.
But it was the early runs the Sweets could never recover from.
Bellingham's Eric Lane led off the game with a double on the first pitch, moved to third on a ground out and scored on an infield single by Jeff Gelalich.
They continued to chip away in the second with a combination of small ball. Michael Aquino started the inning with a single and J.R. Bunda's slash was fielded beautifully by Brackenridge at third, but his throw to second sailed into center and left runners on the corners.
Yanzick followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0 and then got himself caught in a rundown long enough between first and second to allow Bunda to score from third with the third run.
A combination of five pitchers did the rest for the Bells as they extended their winning streak to seven games.
Howard gave up seven hits and struck out four over five scoreless innings, hen Bellingham used four different relievers over the game's final four innings. Leko Galusha pitched a scoreless sixth, Evan Hudson a scoreless seventh, Jacob Coats allowed the only run in the eighth and Nick Palewicz closed the door in the ninth.
Walla Walla's only run came on a throwing error by the right fielder in the eighth. With two outs, Brackenridge dropped a single down the right field line, sending Stewart all the way to third. Andy Fortuna came up throwing but his throw went to no base and instead rolled to the backstop, allowing Stewart to score from third.
The Sweets could not grab another run. Stanford and Chance Kopacz each had two hits and Brackenridge led the way with three knocks. Lane and Aquino each had a pair of hits for the Bells and Aquino also scored twice.
The Sweets and Bells continue their three-game series with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch today. Ryan Richardson will get the ball for Walla Walla and will be opposed by Richie Ochoa.
Bells 4, Sweets 1
Sweets 000 000 010 - 1 11 1
Bells 120 001 00x - 4 7 3
Christie, Mack (3) and Hawk; Howard, Galusha (5), Hudson (6), Coats (7), Palewicz (8) and Grubb.
Hits - Sweets: Mendenhall, Stanford 2, Kopacz 2, Stewart, Campbell, Brackenridge 3, Chavez. Bells: Lane 2, Hatch, Gelalich, Aquino 2, Yanzick.