Grand slam lifts Corvallis past Sweets in season opener

Walla Walla falls to Corvallis, 6-4, after a grand slam in the eighth inning.

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The 2012 Walla Walla Sweets line the third base line for the singing of the national anthem before their game against the Corvallis Knights on opening day of the season.

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Walla Walla Sweets third baseman Ben Ruff fields a high hopping ground ball early during their game against the Corvallis Knights Friday.

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Shortstop Jared Jordan tracks a ground ball his direction during the Sweets' game against the Corvallis Knights Friday.

WALLA WALLA - Corvallis' Austin Barr needed just one swing to make a forgettable offensive night memorable during his team's season-opening West Coast League baseball game with the Walla Walla Sweets on Friday night at Borleske Stadium.

In his first three plate appearances, Barr was hitless with two strikeouts.

But with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning, Barr slugged a 1-2 pitch from Walla Walla relief pitcher Garrett Tygerson over the left-field wall that lifted the defending WCL champions to a 6-4 victory.

"It was one big fly at the right time," Corvallis manager Brooke Knight said. "He did a nice job of staying back. He did a great job of being more patient. He really picked himself up."

"He was sitting on a breaking ball and got a good swing on it," Walla Walla manager J.C. Biagi said.

The Sweets tallied the game's first run in the bottom of the second inning. Spencer O'Neil led off with a single to right, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, moved to third on a passed ball and - after a walk to Ben Ruff - scored when Kevin Hawk grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Walla Walla starting pitcher Tyler Roberts retired the Knights in order in each of the first three innings before yielding two runs and four consecutive hits in the fourth.

Marc Gallegos started the frame with a bunt single and scooted to third on a two-base throwing error, the first of four defensive snafus committed by the Sweets.

Nate Blackham brought Gallegos home with a single down the right-field line and scored on a Matt Nylen double that gave Corvallis its first lead of the game, 2-1.

Caleb Whalen reached base on an infield hit. Nylen went to third and Whalen to second on a sacrifice bunt by Beau Fraser.

But Roberts escaped further distress after retiring Barr and Tristan Metcalf on infield grounders. He exited the game after five innings of mound duty.

"He was throwing the ball well," Biagi said. "We saw a little fatigue setting in, but he gave us an opportunity to win the game."

Walla Walla reclaimed the lead with three runs in the fifth inning. Jarrod Turner commenced the stanza with a walk and Kelani Brackenridge was hit by a pitch.

With one out, Brett Jacobs walked to put a Walla Wallan at every base.

Rob Dittrick replaced Knights' starting pitcher Aaron Corwin and issued RBI free passes to Chance Kopacz and O'Neil.

Ruff capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to center that provided the Sweets with a two-run margin, 4-2.

"That's what we're looking for - to be able to lay off pitches out of the zone and take advantage of it," Biagi said.

Walla Walla reliever Zach Brandon kept the edge intact by keeping the visitors off the scoreboard in innings six and seven.

A Sweets' error on a Blackham grounder began the eighth inning. Another miscue allowed Blackham to advance to second.

Nylen walked and a Whalen bunt single loaded the sacks.

Tygerson entered and struck out Fraser before giving up Barr's game-deciding blast.

Corvallis closer A.J. Burke earned the save despite a two-out walk in the ninth inning.

The Sweets managed just two hits and got only one batter as far as second in the final four innings of play. They stranded eight runners.

"Corwin battled and Dittrick settled down," Knight said. "We kept ourselves in the game. Sometimes you have to be lucky and get a timely hit."

Covallis 6, Sweets 4

Corvallis 000 200 040 - 6 7 0

Sweets 010 030 000 - 4 6 4

Corwin, Dittrick (5), Burke (9) and Barr; Roberts, Brandon (6), Tygerson (8) and Hawk.

HR - Corvallis: Barr.

Hits - Corvallis: Nylen 2, Whalen 2, Gallegos, Blackham, Barr; Sweets: Bonczyk 2, O'Neil, Jacobs, Hawk, Brackenridge.

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