WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla Sweets gave up three runs to open the second half of a two-game homestand with the non-league Portland Stars on Tuesday.
And although it took the Sweets seven more innings to catch up to the Stars, they finally did and pulled out a 5-4 victory in 11 innings.
"We got off to a rocky start," said Sweets manager J.C. Biagi after the better-late-than-never victory. "We spotted them three runs early, but through the end, I was pretty happy. The pitching staff took those extra innings to close it off."
The Sweets used four pitchers for the win, closing with Jimmy Litchfield, who picked up the win in his first appearance of the summer. Litchfield allowed one hit and one walk in the final three innings.
But it was the bats that got it done at the end.
The Sweets loaded the bases for the third time in five innings in the 11th, when James Campbell hit the winning RBI to bring Scott Gottschling home with one out.
Campbell had another opportunity to score the winning run with two outs in the ninth but struck out to end the inning.
"I'd already been in that position," he said of the winning RBI. "I didn't worry about it too much. I knew that if I didn't get it, the guy behind me would. I got the right pitch to get it done."
Campbell also made a long throw from right field to keep Portland's Pete Breshears from scoring on a slide into home in the top of the eighth, helping propel the game into extra innings.
But it didn't open so well for Walla Walla. Starting pitcher Geoff Soja gave up three runs on two walks and three hits in the first two-thirds of the opening inning.
Eric Yardley came in to replace him, allowing Portland its fourth - and final - run in the third, when Jared Van Hoon singled, got to second on a past ball, stole third and came home on a Sweets' overthrow.
Down 4-0, the Sweets finally got on the board in the sixth, when Denver Chavez walked, Kalani Brackenridge singled and Elliot Stewart singled to load the bases.
Austin Heaps brought Chavez home on a fielder's choice, outing Brackenridge before Goose Kallunki flew out to end the Sweets' threat with just one run.
Portland put Josh Burbery on the mound in the seventh, and Burbery walked four and gave up a hit to Brackenridge to score the Sweets' second run.
The Sweets scored twice more with two outs in the eighth for the tie, when Campbell was hit by a pitch, got to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Chance Kopacz single. Alex Stanford hit a long ball to the right-field wall, but the ground-rule double sent him to second. Chavez then walked to load the bases, while Brackenridge worked a bases-loaded walk to score Kopacz for the tying run.
But the Sweets couldn't bring another in, despite a one-out double in the ninth and a lead-off hit-by-pitch in the 10th.
They loaded the bases again in the 11th for Campbell's one-out score.
The Sweets had an earlier opportunity to get on the board, which Portland nipped with a 4-6-3-2 triple play.
Gottschling singled, then Elliot Stewart walked to put runners in scoring position, but an Austin Heaps ground ball to second ended the inning, with all of the Sweets heading back to the bench scoreless.
"I'm happy with the win," Biagi said, while fans greeted his players, seeking autographs. "We came up with the big hits in the end for the win. We were a little slow, but we picked it up in the middle of the game and capitalized on big hits to put the game away."
It was a complete team effort, he said.
"We've got a good group of guys here," he said. "There was no hero tonight."
The final Sweet player arrived Tuesday, giving the team a full roster as they wrapped up a 4-4 homestand.
Walla Walla travels to Corvallis and Kelowna before returning to Walla Walla June 30 for Cowlitz, all in West Coast League play.
"We're riding high and feeling pretty good," Campbell said of the team. "We're pretty confident."
Sweets 5, Stars 4
Stars 301 000 000 00 - 4 10 1
Sweets 000 001 120 01 - 5 11 3
Weir, Burbery (7), Doran (7), Van Hoon (9) and Coghlan; Soja, Yardley (1), Mack (6), Litchfield (9) and Stewart.
Hits - Stars: Breshears, Rowe, Schwartz, Bouldon, Cornish, Van Hoon 3, McKinney, Coghlan. Sweets: Gottschling 2, Stewart, Heaps 2, Mendenhall, Campbell 2, Kopacz, Williams, Stanford.