Timely hits elude Walla Walla Sweets in loss to Bells

Walla Walla gets 13 hits, but leaves 13 runners on base in the 5-2 loss to Bellingham.

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Walla Walla Sweets shortstop Kevin Williams (right) lunges toward second base just ahead of Bellingham Bells baserunner Eric Lane Wednesday evening.

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Walla Walla Sweets baserunner Alex Stanford dives around the tag of Bellingham's Kai Hatch (for a stolen base during the bottom of the third inning.

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After diving toward the bag to keep Bellingham Bells baserunner Kyle Schepel on third, Sweets third baseman Kalani Brackenridge rips a throw toward first base for the out.

WALLA WALLA - It often is not how many hits you get, but when you get them that counts.

The Walla Walla Sweets pounded out 13 hits here Wednesday in West Coast League baseball action, but couldn't get the clutch hit in the right spot, and Bellingham came away with a 5-2 win.

The Sweets left 13 baserunners stranded as they dropped to 12-19 in WCL East Division play.

"We had plenty of opportunities," Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. "By and large, we hit the ball well, but it's a matter of coming up with a hit when you've got a guy in scoring position. You can't change your approach (with guys in scoring position). You've got to get a pitch to hit and drive it. You can't go up thinking you've got to do something any different than the guy ahead of you (did)."

The Sweets set the tone early as Alex Stanford and Zach Wentz singled in the first, but the Sweets left two on and failed to score.

Same story in the second as Kalani Brackenridge and Denver Chavez collected hits, but the Sweets couldn't pick them up.

On the hill, Walla Walla's Aaron Hoverson matched the Bells and Washington State University product Richie Ochoa goose egg for goose egg through five innings.

Kari Hatch's ground ball was misplayed to lead off the Bells sixth. That error quickly came back to haunt the Sweets as Derek Atkinson promptly tripled Hatch home with a drive to deep right-center. Hoverson almost wiggled out of trouble, but Michael Aquino's two-out hit scored Atkinson and the Bells led 2-0.

"If we pick that ball up clean (the error to open the sixth), they can't put the hit-and-run on," Biagi commented. "Then the guy (Atkinson) runs into one and hits a triple to score a run and they end up with another guy in scoring position."

Chance Kopacz and Scott Gottschling singled back-to-back with one out in the Sweets sixth. Kevin Williams drew a walk to load the bases, but the Sweets only got one as Kopacz scored on Brackenridge's fielder's choice grounder.

Tyler Billen came on in relief of Hoverson to open the Bellingham seventh. Eric Lane and Hatch greeted Billen with singles. Ben Grubb's pop-up to left was lost in the twilight and the Bells had the bases loaded with one out.

Pat Gallagher missed a suicide squeeze bunt, but Lane eluded the tag at home and scored to make it 3-1. Gallagher redeemed himself with a two-run single and Bellingham had all it needed with a 5-1 lead.

"We got decent pitching (from Hoverson)," Biagi said. "They run the squeeze and that created a little separation in the score, and we end up in a predicament defensively (runners at second and third for Gallagher)."

Stanford and Wentz both singled in the home seventh, but the run-producing hit never came.

"We could've kept ourselves in it, if we just drive a run in," Biagi said. "They just kept adding on and we put ourselves behind the eight ball."

Stanford collected his fourth hit of the game with one out in the Sweets ninth. Kopacz got an RBI single to score Stanford, but it was too little, too late as the Sweets left two more on base and the Bells hung on for the 5-2 win.

Andrew Mendenhall, despite hitting two balls right on the button - a line shot to right in the first and a line drive to the pitcher in the seventh - saw his record-setting Sweets hitting streak stopped at 13 games.

Mendenhall looks to start another streak as the three-game series with the Bells continues tonight at 7 p.m.

Bellingham 5, Walla Walla 2

Bellingham 000 002 300 - 5 12 0

Walla Walla 000 001 001 - 2 13 2

Ochoa, Nylund (6), Spear (8), Deeter (9) and Grubb; Hoverson, Billen (7), Richardson (7), Soja (8), Santschi (9) and Stewart.

HR - none.

Hits - Bell: Hatch 2, Grubb 2, Lane 2, Emery, Atkinson 2, Aquino, M. Yanzick, Gallagher; WW: Stanford 4, Wentz 2, Brackenridge, Chavez, Kopacz 2, Gottschling 2, Williams.

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