WALLA WALLA - Ryan Richardson had Walla Walla rolling with seven strong innings on the mound and the Sweets holding a 2-1 lead against the expansion Klamath Falls Gems at Borleske Stadium Tuesday night.
But as soon as Richardson left in the eighth inning, Klamath Falls rallied with three runs for a 4-2 lead.
That gave the Sweets' bats a chance for a rally of their own, and they did just that as Walla Walla plated four eighth-inning runs to win the West Coast League game, 6-4.
"It was good to come back in that situation," Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said of the rally. "We all know - and we talked about it - we shouldn't be in that situation. We need our bullpen to come in and throw strikes. If we can do that, and have some timely hitting and mix in a little defense, I think we'll be OK."
Richardson allowed the Gems' first run in the first inning, then watched as Chance Kopacz's third-inning triple scored Andrew Mendenhall and Denver Chavez to give Walla Walla the lead.
Richardson turned back the final nine Gems batters he faced.
"Ryan threw great," Biagi said. "That's what we've come to expect from him. He's just a strike thrower. He locates his off-speed stuff and he competes his tail off every time he comes out. He was good tonight - really good."
But when Richardson left in the eighth, Klamath Falls immediately jumped on Sweets relievers Drew Fittry and Derek Peterson to score three runs and take a 4-2 lead. The bases were loaded for the second time in the inning when Sean Santschi, the Sweets' third pitcher of the eighth stanza, ended the inning with a strikeout.
That opened the door for Walla Walla's rally. Kopacz, who earlier in the game extended his hitting streak to six games, walked to open the eighth inning. He was replaced by pinch runner James Campbell.
New arrival Elliot Stewart followed with another walk, which knocked Gems reliever Cody Edwards off the mound in favor of Dusty Ross.
Ross got two quick outs, but then walked Brenton Allen to load the bases, and Alex Stanford smacked a two-run double to tie the game.
The Gems then intentionally walked Kevin Hawk to again load the bases, and Mendenhall made them pay with a two-run double of his own to score Allen and Stanford.
The contributions of his new arrivals - which on Monday included Stewart, Chavez, Mendenhall, Kyle Anderson, Cory Mack and Eric Yardley - weren't unnoticed by Biagi.
"Elliot (Stewart) had a couple good (at-bats) where he walked," Biagi said. "Mendenhall came through with that hit late in the game.
"We're almost at full capacity. I think we'll see a full roster by the end of the week, and we look forward to those guys competing," he said. "We've got a great group of guys. We're still working to get on the same page on a few things, but we've got great attitudes, great kids. They're all ballplayers."
The Sweets (4-3) continue their eight-game homestand at 7:05 p.m. tonight against the same Gems (3-6).
Sweets 6, Gems 4
Gems 100 000 030 - 4 6 5
Sweets 002 000 04x - 6 6 2
Schmidt, LaBrie (6), Edwards (8), Ross (8) and Cornish. Richardson, Fittry (8), Peterson (8), Santschi (8), Billen (9) and Hawk.
HR - none.
Hits - Klam: Sanguinetti, Atkinson, Gill, Saiko, Miller, Crowell. WW: Mendenhall, Kopacz 2, Allen, Stanford, Hawk.
Post-game interview with Andrew Mendenhall and Tyler Billen