WENATCHEE — The Walla Walla Sweets (23-21) failed to bounce back from a series-opening loss on Tuesday, falling 2-1 to the Wenatchee AppleSox (25-22) on Wednesday evening at Paul Thomas Field.
The loss puts the Sweets just one-half of a game out of first place behind Wenatchee in the WCL North division. Bellingham, a 3-2 loser to Medford, sits just behind Walla Walla in the standings.
Wednesday night’s pitcher’s duel showcased All-Stars on both sides, with Matt Hall taking the mound for the Sweets and Trevor Lubking hurling for the AppleSox. Both went seven strong innings, but it was Lubking who left the game a winner.
After tossing a perfect first 5 1/3 frames, Lubking finished the night with 10 strikeouts, allowing one earned run on just three hits and one walk.
Jake Wylie’s one-out single in the fifth inning for Walla Walla broke up Lubking’s perfect streak, and after a wild pitch to advance Wylie to second base, a two-out single off the bat of Dom Miroglio drove in the only Sweets run of the night.
Walla Walla threatened again in the sixth after Scott Silva led off with a single and designated hitter Kramer Lindell followed with a walk, but shortstop Nick Vilter proceeded to strike out looking. With one out, Jarod Gonzales lined out to first. Lindell was caught off the bag and was doubled up, squandering the scoring opportunity.
Houston Hibberd came on to relieve Lubking in the eighth inning and continued the trend of dominant Wenatchee pitching. Hibberd was perfect in his two innings work, striking out five Sweets batters.
Hall, who entered the game with a team-best four wins, pitched a gem for Walla Walla, but was handed his second loss of the season. The Missouri State sophomore struck out five and allowed two earned runs on six hits while walking three.
The left-hander faced a bases loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the first inning, but got Wenatchee first baseman Connor Spencer to ground to second base as the start of an inning-ending double play.
Wenatchee began to rally when shortstop Joe Mello led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Sweets catcher Miroglio was unable to control a pitch to the next batter and Mello advanced to second on the passed ball before another pitch in the dirt sent Mello to third.
AppleSox right fielder Ryan Barr was robbed of a bloop single by Silva, and Hall positioned himself to pitch out of yet another jam by striking out center fielder Brock Slavin. That brought designated hitter Andre Real to the plate, who poked a two-out single through the middle to score Mello and tie the game at 1-1.
Walla Walla was unable to respond in the top of the seventh, falling to Lubking in order. A Grant Palmer single over Vilter, a sacrifice bunt, and a booming double over center fielder Mike Paulson’s head off the bat of Brent Stephens in the bottom half of the inning gave the Applesox the decisive game-winning run.
The Sweets look to avoid the sweep tonight as they take on Wenatchee for the final time in the regular season. Walla Walla righty Bret Helton (2-1) is scheduled to throw the 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
Wenatchee 2, Walla Walla 1
Sweets 000 010 000 — 1 3 2
AppleSox 000 001 10x — 2 6 0
Hall, Lawhead (8) and Miroglio. Lubking, Hibberd (8) and Hutting.
HRs — none
Hits — WW: Wylie, Miroglio, Silva; Wen: Mello, Slavin, Real 2, Palmer, Stephens.