Blue Devil hardballers split with Lions

Moe Handcox's walk-off home run lifts Wa-Hi to a 4-3 victory in the nightcap after a 5-4 loss in the opener against Kennewick.

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Down 3-0, with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Wa-Hi's Keltan Fulmer (left) slides to second for a steal past Brandon Pocasangre of Kennewick.

WALLA WALLA - Walk-off.

Trailing 3-1 going to its last at bat in the nightcap of a non-conference baseball doubleheader against Kennewick here Wednesday, Wa-Hi's Moe Handcox came to the plate representing the winning run.

Handcox took a 3-1 pitch from Kennewick's Garrett Wilz over the left-field wall for a walk-off, three-run home run and the Blue Devils won 4-3 to earn a split of the twin bill.

The Lions, with the help of a three-run first inning, held off Wa-Hi, 5-4, to win the opener.

"Just yesterday, Moe comes out of the cages and looks at me and goes ‘Graddy (Wa-Hi coach Keith Gradwohl), the ball is looking really big right now', Gradwohl said. "There's something about these kids. We hung in there and didn't give up. A (Kennewick) kid makes a great play to start the (seventh) inning, we could've folded, but we just kept battling."

In the nightcap, Kennewick scored two unearned runs off Wa-Hi starting pitcher Adam Mathews and added one off reliever Spencer Locati in the seventh, on an infield RBI single from Jarod Gonzales.

Wa-Hi got a lead-off sixth-inning single from Handcox. Handcox stole second and went to third on Josh Eggers' deep fly-out to center. Taylor Lemke delivered Handcox with a two-out single and the Blue Devils went to the home seventh down 3-1.

Julian Zamora led off the Blue Devil seventh with a sharp grounder up the middle. Lion shortstop Trek Stemp made a sliding stop, popped up and gunned Zamora out at first.

Luke Reardon singled and Daniel Lake walked to put the tying runs on base for Handcox.

"I was fourth up in the inning," Handcox said. "I just kept thinking that we needed two on base, and I would hit something in the gap so we could tie the game.

"When the pitcher got behind me (three balls and one strike), I was looking for that one pitch," Handcox continued. "I was waiting for a fastball all the way and I got it. I put a good swing on it."

The Lions got a two-run bomb from Gonzales in the first inning of the opener to cap a three-run first and give the Lions a 3-0 lead. The Lions tacked on one more in the third for a 4-0 margin.

The Blue Devils began to peck away as Handcox doubled to open the home third. Lemke singled home Handcox after Eggers drew a walk. Locati doubled down the right-field line to score Eggers and Wa-Hi had the lead cut to 4-2 after three innings.

Wa-Hi got some help from the Lions in the fourth. With two outs, Zane Henderson reached on a Lion error. Henderson scooted home when the Lions mishandled Cody Furstenberg's infield single.

Wilz knocked in a run in the Lion fifth to get the lead back to 5-3. Lemke hit one out to left to open the Blue Devil fifth, but Wa-Hi got no closer than 5-4.

"We just didn't come up with the clutch hit," Handcox said of the first-game loss. "We were searching for the clutch hit and finally got something started in the last inning (of the second game). We are a resilient group. We've been playing together a long time and have good team chemistry. That helps us a lot."

With the split, Wa-Hi drops to 6-1 on the season.

"Game one, we got behind and battled back and had chances to win," Gradwohl said. "That was a quality club we played. Getting a split, we're happy."

Handcox and Lemke led the Blue Devil offensive charge. Lemke had two hits in each game, and Handcox had three hits in the opener and two hits in the night cap including the walk off.

On the hill, Reardon threw a complete game in a losing effort in game one.

Defensively, Wa-Hi played without starting shortstop Will Parnicky, who was out with illness, but junior Jarrod Needham filled in and made only one error in 11 chances.

"Our pitching (Reardon, Mathews, Locati) was outstanding," Gradwohl said. "We've got some kids swinging it real well. Jarrod can really pick it at short. We're real happy with where we are at."

Wa-Hi closes the preseason Tuesday when Pendleton visits for a single game.

"We've been playing really well right now," Handcox said. "We're using these non-conference games as tune up games for league."

First Game

Kennewick 301 010 0 - 5 9 2

Wa -Hi 002 110 0 - 4 9 1

Ayres, Higley (4), Julian (6) and Wilz; Reardon and Lemke.

HR - Kenn: J. Gonzales; Wa-Hi: Lemke.

Hits - Kenn: Stemp 2, Hancock 2, Gonzales, Fulton, Ayres, Wilz, Ramos; Wa-Hi: Handcox 3, Lemke 2, Locati 2, Furstenberg, Needham.

Second Game

Kennewick 100 001 1 - 3 13 1

Wa -Hi 000 001 3 - 4 6 4

Langlois, Plew (5), Witz (6) and Hancock; Mathews, Locati (7) and Furstenberg Lively, Salter (6).

HR - Wa-Hi: Handcox.

Hits - Kenn: Hancock 2, Gonzales 3, Pocasangre 3, Ramos 2, Stemp 2, Wilz; Wa-Hi: Reardon 2, Lemke 2, Handcox 2.

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