WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla snapped Kitsap’s five game winning streak here Tuesday in West Coast League baseball action.
The Sweets’ Matt Hall and the BlueJackets’ Ryan Taylor locked up in a pitching dual, but a Matt Mendenhall two-run fifth-inning single sent Hall home a winner as the Sweets went on to post a 3-1 win.
“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. “There were a number of opportunities for both teams. With one big hit, it could’ve gone either way. We did what we could to produce base runners and it eventually paid off. We snuck one out.”
A Nick Vilter single and walks to Mike Paulson and Kris Paulino loaded the bases with two outs in the home second. Taylor got a pop up to end the WW threat.
An error and a walk produced two Sweets base runners in the third with no outs. Taylor struck out two and got a pop up to avert damage again.
With two outs in the Sweets fourth, Paulino and Kramer Lindell each singled, but Renae Martinez’ deep fly to left came up short to end the Sweets threat.
John Skrbek singled to open the Sweets fifth. Jarod Gonzales walked and a wild pitch later, the Sweets had runners at second and third. Taylor got a fly out and a pop up and faced Mendenhall with two on and two outs.
Mendenhall drove a ball into left field for a single and Skrbek and Gonzales scored to give the Sweets a 2-1 lead.
“We needed to get something going as we struggled at the plate today,” Mendenhall said. “I was fortunate to have my teammates get on base for the opportunity to happen. He (Taylor) had been throwing breaking balls all day. We just had to lay off the lower ones. I got one elevated and put a decent swing on it.”
The damage was done, but in the Sweets seventh, three walks and a Paulino sac fly got Vilter home with an insurance run. The Sweets took a 3-1 lead to the eighth.
Hall, a Missouri State southpaw, left after seven with a 2-1 lead. Hall gave up an unearned run in the fourth, three hits, struck out seven, and retired the last 10 batters he faced in order, although Andy Lack led off the fifth with a single. Hall simply picked him off and no other BlueJacket reached first against Hall.
“Our defense was playing well tonight,” Hall said. “They covered a lot of ground out there. My changeup today (was working). I just started throwing it and I had a good feel for it and started getting it over. I started throwing it over and over and it worked for me.”
Sean-Luke Brija came on in the ninth and earned his league-leading sixth save, although it took a line drive off the bat of Yuto Kata, which Mendenhall snared at first base and fired to Vilter at second for a game-ending double play, to end it.
The win moves the Sweets to 13-9, and, with Victoria’s 7-2 loss to Wenatchee, into a dead heat for first place with Victoria in the North.
“That’s awesome (to be in first),” Hall said. “Our pitching staff has had a couple of rough times this year and our bats have been there to pick us up. (Tonight) we threw well. We’re a team and it takes nine players to win a game.”
“We’ve been grinding and working hard,” Mendenhall said. “I feel like we’re getting all three aspects — the fielding, the hitting, the pitching — going.”
“It’s nice to be in that position,” Biagi concluded. “But, this time of year, the standings change quite a bit. I think there is better baseball in us.”
The Sweets and Kitsap continue their series tonight at 7 p.m. with firewoks to follow the game.
Walla Walla 3, Kitsap 1
Kitsap 000 100 000 — 1 5 1
Walla Walla 000 020 10x — 3 6 2
Taylor, Luper (5), Fry (7), Volkers (8) and Latta; Hall, Lawhead (8), Arlt (8), Brija (9) and Martinez.
Hits — Kit: Lack 3, Gheorghe 2; WW: Martinez, Vilter, Paulino, Lindell, Skrbec, Mendenhall.