WALLA WALLA - Powered by a solid seven-inning performance from pitcher Leko Galusha and 12 hits, including a home run, the Cowlitz Black Bears took a 5-2 victory from the Walla Walla Sweets in West Coast League baseball play on a muggy Thursday evening at Borleske Stadium.
The game was delayed twice thanks to a heavy rain and lightning storm that drenched the field, beginning just as the national anthem ended, and a power surge that knocked out most of the stadium lighting one pitch into the bottom the ninth.
The loss drops Walla Walla (15-22) to 10 1/2 games behind East-leading Wenatchee and the Sweets remain 7 1/2 games out of playoff contention with Bellingham losing Thursday as well.
The Sweets have 17 games remaining on their schedule, six of them against Bellingham.
Cowlitz improves to 17-20 in the West Division.
The Sweets took an early one-run lead after the first inning.
Brian Carroll took a full-count ball to lead off the Cowlitz first, and was driven home by a sac-bunt and a Brain Frattali sacrifice fly to get the Bears on the board.
Walla Walla answered in the bottom on the inning with a pair of runs on two hits and two bases on balls. UC-Riverside sophomore Nick Vilter capped the rally with a sacrifice fly to score Brett Jacobs from third.
That ended the scoring for the Sweets, however, as Galusha settled into the game and gave up just one hit over the final six innings of his outing. Galusha struck out four and gave up just two walks, not including the first.
"He (Galusha) was tough, and there's no getting around that," Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. "We're going to face those guys and we fully expect to compete and beat guys like that. If you're going to do anything in this league you're going to have to."
Cowlitz, on the other hand, had no trouble with Sweets starter Zach Brandon, chasing the righty from the mound after just three innings.
After holding the Bears to a hit in the second, Brandon allowed the first five Cowlitz batters to reach base in the third as Cowlitz took a 3-2 lead with RBIs going to Frattali and Tyler Madrid.
Cowlitz tacked on another run in the fifth thanks to a lead-off home run from Frattali, who finished the evening 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs.
Walla Walla had its fair share of hard hit balls but couldn't make it over the outfield fence or find the gaps, as the Sweets managed just five hits on the night.
Walla Walla's best chance to score came in the sixth.
After Brett Jacobs grounded out to lead the inning off, Shane Zeile took a base on balls and Spencer O'Neil, who was one of three Sweets selected to represent the East Division in the WCL All-star Game on Tuesday at Borleske, was hit by an errant pitch. Zeile advanced to third on a fly ball and was in position to score when DeSales grad J.J. Robinson almost turned a grounder into an infield hit as the ball rolled slowly in the soft infield. But he was gunned down at first for the final out of the inning.
"Chipping away in the late innings, there was a couple opportunities - hard-hit balls that didn't land, that ended up in gloves - but we can't do anything about that," Biagi said. "We have to create opportunities and force their guy on the mound to work a little harder and come out tomorrow and do a better job, really."
Biagi was nearly ejected from the game after arguing a call in the sixth inning. It appeared a ball struck Cowlitz batter Carroll's bat as he moved to avoid an incoming pitch from Walla Walla's Joe Arlt, but home plate umpire Rick Jaggers called it a hit-by-pitch after consulting with the field umpire and then with Carroll, who had advanced to first.
Biagi took the field to the cheers of the home crowd and dogged Jaggers until Jaggers made several motions as though he was tossing the Sweets manager, but Biagi stayed in the game.
Just as the first pitch of the ninth inning was thrown, the lights at Borleske went out due to a power surge, the Sweets said. It took almost 30 minutes for the lights to be turned back on, during which the Black Bears players frolicked in the outfield and danced along to the Cha Cha slide.
A handful of Sweets fans waited out the delay and were rewarded with a base hit from Robinson and a walk to Jared Turner, but Kalani Brackenridge, representing the tying run, was struck out looking to end the game.
"I didn't think we came out and set a great tone," Biagi said. "Obviously we got two in the first inning, but we've got to have zeros put up after that and not leave balls out over the plate. Can't leave balls up in the zone, and they got on the fastball with Zach (Brandon) really early on."
The Sweets host Klamath Falls tonight at 7:05 p.m. to begin their final homestand before the All-Star Game.
The Gems, after starting the season in the West Division cellar, will take Borleske on a hot streak, having won nine straight and 16 of their last 17 games.
Black Bears 5, Sweets 2
Black Bears 102 011 000 - 5 12 0
Sweets 200 000 000 - 2 6 1
Galusha, Sprague (8), Williams (9) and Armijo, Hazard (9); of Brandon, Smith (4), Arlt (7), Tygerson (9) and Turner.
HR - Cow: Frattali.
Hits - Cow: Carroll, Wobrock, Fratalli 2, Armijo 2, Madrid 2, Ozzane, Rubanowitz, Paxton 2; WW: Jacobs, Zeile, O'Neil, Robinson, Brackenridge.