WALLA WALLA - A three-run, ninth-inning rally was not enough for the West Coast League's Walla Walla Sweets to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Thursday night at rainy Borleske Stadium.
The visiting Northwest Honkers, members of the Pacific International League, tallied single runs in the first, third, fourth, and eighth innings to eke out a 4-3 triumph that brought Walla Walla's season-opening homestand to a disappointing end.
Thursday's contest came down to missed opportunities for the home team. Sweets' batters struck out 11 times, stranded 12 runners on base, and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"I just thought we were flat," Walla Walla manager J.C. Biagi said. "We didn't get anything done. Guys were tentative with the bat."
Northwest's Cameron Padron produced the game's first run with a first-inning single that scored Keith Woelber, who drew a two-out walk and moved to second base on a passed ball.
Woelber gave the Honkers a 2-0 lead in inning three with an infield grounder that scored Jesse Bechtold from third. Bechtold was hit by a pitch with one out, stole second, and advanced to third on a Kyle Mall infield single before crossing the plate on Woelber's groundout.
With one out in the fourth inning, a Sweets' error put Northwest's Will Chavarria at first. He went to second on a single by Nick Johnson, scooted to third on a wild pitch, and came home on a Brett Smith hit to left that made it 3-0.
The Honkers took advantage of an eighth-inning wild pitch to register their final run of the game.
The Sweets had little luck against Northwest starting pitcher Bobby Wassmann. He gave up just six hits, fanned nine batters, walked three and hit two over seven innings.
Honkers' reliever Oliver Wange retired Walla Walla in order in the eighth inning.
Wange walked Kevin Hawk and J.J. Robinson to begin the ninth before striking out Jared Jordan.
Alex Bonczyk hit into a 5-4 fielder's choice and Kelani Brackenridge walked to load the bases.
Spencer O'Neil followed with a pop fly on the left side of the infield. Bechtold, who moved defensively from left field to third base in the seventh inning, was unable to make the play and two runs scored as a result.
A third run scored on the play and O'Neil took second on a throwing error by Woelber.
Back-to-back walks to Ben Ruff and Marc Garza reloaded the bases.
But Wange K'd Jarrod Turner on three pitches for the game's final out.
"Offensively, you can't sit around and expect gifts," Biagi said. "They did a good job."
The Sweets return to the diamond on Sunday when they open a six-game road trip with the first of three games against Bend. The trip will end with a three-game stop in Corvallis.
"It will be a good test," Biagi said. "Those are two quality, well-coached teams. They like to run quite a bit. They have team speed.
"We'll have to pitch, control the running game, and put some runs on the board."
Northwest 4, Sweets 3
Northwest 101 100 010 - 4 7 1
Sweets 000 000 003 - 3 7 1
Wassmann, Wange (8) and Chavarria; Roberts, West (6), Billen (7), Ashby (9) and Robinson.
HR - none.
Hits - Northwest: Padron 2, Smith 2, Chavarria, Mall, Johnson; Sweets: O'Neil 2, Garza 2, Ruff, Robinson, Bonczyk.