WENATCHEE — Two-out offense played a key role for the Wenatchee AppleSox Tuesday night at Paul Thomas Field, scoring seven of their eight runs with two down in an 8-4 defeat of the Walla Walla Sweets in the opening game of the West Coast League North Division Series.
Walla Walla starting pitcher Sean Silva took the loss after lasting just 1 2/3 innings on the mound, roughed up for five earned runs after recording the first two outs in the opening two frames of the game.
AppleSox leadoff man Brett Stephens struck out swinging in the first, and second baseman Grant Palmer followed suit.
However, Brock Slavin, who played stellar defense in center field and led Wenatchee in walks during the regular season, prolonged the first inning with an 11-pitch at-bat. He reached first base via a base on balls before first baseman Connor Spencer singled to move Slavin into scoring position.
Stockton Taylor walked to load the bases, and left fielder Eric Hutting drove Slavin in with another base hit.
Two more singles and a bases-loaded walk put Wenatchee ahead 4-0 by the end of the first inning.
Silva sat down the first two men of the second frame as well with an easy ground ball back to himself and a sharp lineout to center field.
But Spencer struck again with a solo home run deep to right-center field to pad the Sox lead at 5-0.
Silva surrendered a single to Taylor before an error at third base prompted Sweets manager J.C. Biagi to make a switch.
Right-hander Connor Dillman entered in relief, but walked the first three hitters he faced in his 1 1/3 innings on the mound.
With Walla Walla trailing 7-0, Dillman worked a quick third inning, stranding a man at second base before Sweets lefty Joe Arlt took the reigns in the fourth. Tagged for one run in the inning, Arlt effectively stopped the bleeding to give Walla Walla a chance to fight back.
With Sweets right fielder Kris Paulino on second by virtue of a ground-rule double, catcher Renae Martinez homered deep to left field to put the Sweets on the board in the seventh.
AppleSox starter Beau Kerns, who went seven or more innings in five of his nine regular season starts, lasted eight complete Tuesday night despite that long ball, striking out four Sweets hitters.
Walla Walla began to rally in the ninth off of Wenatchee closer Lars Rider. Paulino singled to left-center as designated hitter Dominic Miroglio followed with a double to the left-center field wall to shave the deficit to 8-3.
Martinez notched a third consecutive single before shortstop Nick Vilter flew out to deep right-center, scoring Miroglio.
The rally fizzled, however, with runners at the corners and two out when first baseman Matt Mendenhall struck out swinging to end the game.
The best-of-three series shifts to Borleske Stadium at 7:05 p.m. tonight. Game 3, if needed, is scheduled Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
In the other WCL playoff series, Corvallis took a 1-0 lead in the South Division best-of-three with an 8-6 win over Medford. That series shifts to Corvallis tonight.
AppleSox 8, Sweets 4
Walla Walla 000 000 202 — 4 9 3
Wenatchee 430 100 00x — 8 11 0
Silva, Dillman (2), Arlt (4) and Martinez. Kerns, Rider (9) and Harris.
HRs — WW: Martinez; Wen: Spencer.
Hits — WW: Gonzales 2, Paulino 2, Miroglio, Martinez 3, Vilter; Wen: Spencer 2, Taylor 2, Hutting 2, Jansen 2, Harris 2, Steffler.