WALLA WALLA - Fresh off their dramatic 1-0 victory in the ninth inning on Sunday, the Walla Walla Sweets will complete a season-opening, five-game homestand when they host the Portland Toros tonight and Wednesday at Borleske Stadium.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on both nights.
The two games, which are two of the six the Sweets will play against Portland based teams this summer, are non-league games. The Toros are a member of the six-team West Coast League-Portland. The league was formed in 2009 and the six teams compete against each other in a 25-game regular season, with each playing games against WCL franchises throughout the summer. Last season, the Sweets went 3-1 in the non-league contests.
This season, the biggest story has been the Sweets' pitching staff. In three games against Corvallis, eight Sweets pitchers combined to give up just one earned run in 27 innings pitched. That included an 8-0 shutout on Opening Night and Sunday's blanking of the Knights. As evidenced by the five walks given up, the pitchers have pounded the strike zone. Ryan Richardson threw 61 pitches, 40 for strikes over five innings on Friday, 49 of Brett Watson's 70 pitches were strikes on Saturday and Trent Allianic threw 56 of his 81 pitches for strikes on Sunday.
And it's not just the starters that have been great. The relievers have yet to give up a run in 10 2/3 innings. Daniel Jewett and Drew Fittry combined for four scoreless innings in game one, Derek Peterson kept the Sweets in the game with three scoreless on Saturday and Sean Santschi and Tim Culligan threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, working out of several tough jams.
Offensively, the Sweets are still trying to find their stroke. Outside of their six-run, seven-hit outburst in the third inning of Friday's opener, the Sweets bats were held in check. In games two and three against Corvallis, Walla Walla was a combined 3-14 with runners in scoring position. That includes failing to score a run when they had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning Saturday and in the sixth inning on Sunday. Alex Bonczyk (.444), Kalani Brackenridge (.400) and Austin Heaps (.364) each had four hits in the weekend series and Alex Stanford scored three runs.
Today, Sweets fans will get the chance to welcome Jacob Overbay back to Walla Walla. Overbay returns to the Sweets following a spring in which he made just four appearances for University of Nevada-Reno.
Last summer, Overbay pitched his best down the stretch. He won each of his last three decisions and allowed just seven run in his last 18 2/3 innings. The three straight wins pushed his record to 3-2 and he finished with a 4.05 ERA. His best outing was his last as he gave up two runs on nine hits over eight innings in a 3-2 win over Cowlitz on Aug. 4.
Wednesday's starter will be left-hander Tyler Billen. Heading to Southwest Oklahoma State next fall, Billen, with his 6-foot, 4-inch, 240-pound frame, is an intimidating presence from the left side. In his freshman year at Harding in 2010, Billen was named first team All-Gulf Coast South Conference, the only relief pitcher ever named to the first team, after going 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA.
Today is the first Kids Day of the summer and children ages 12 and under receive a $1 ticket when accompanied by a full-paying adult.
Wednesday is Safety Whistele Giveaway night sponsored by Alpha Omega Charters with the first 1,000 fans receiving a free safety whistle.