Sweets shortstop Nick Vilter lays out for a third-inning bounding grounder with one hand out for the grab and the other for the dirt as his team takes on the Klamath Falls Gems Saturday night at Borleske Stadium. The ball dribbled through for a Klamath Falls’ first hit of the game.
Photo by Jeff Horner.
WALLA WALLA — Klamath Falls took the role of gracious visitor to a new level here Saturday night in West Coast League baseball action.
The Gems hit one batter and issued 12 free passes to the host Walla Walla Sweets. The Sweets took advantage to score five runs on only three hits and post a 5-1 win.
The win ran the Sweets win streak to three, and with Wenatchee’s Saturday win, kept the Sweets and AppleSox tied at the top of the North with identical 16-10 marks. The loss ran the Gems losing streak to six. The Sweets go for a sweep of their three-game series today at 5 p.m.
“We have put together good at bats,” Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. “Tonight, it was a bit unconventional. We got guys on base by our ability to take pitches, and leave stuff alone that left the zone. It created opportunities for us.”
John Skrbec earned the first of those 12 Gem walks with two outs in the Sweets first. Mike Paulson followed and delivered a long, towering blast into the concession area in right center for a 2-0 Sweets lead.
The Gem control issues continued as Nick Vilter was plucked to open the Sweets second. Two walks later, Kramer Lindell plated Vilter with a sac-fly to right.
Walks to Zach Reay, Reggie Southall, and Lindell loaded the bases to open the home fourth. Kris Paulino hit a deep sac-fly to center to score Reay, and Skrbec’s grounder to first got Southall home to produce a 5-1 Sweets lead.
Southall led the walk parade as the University of Southern California product drew three walks on the night and scored that fifth and final Sweets run.
“I’ve never walked that many times,” Southall said. “It’s a good thing, you see a lot of pitches and put together a good at bat. You get anxious, but you have to take a deep breath and have a relaxed intensity when you are hitting.”
The Sweets small-ball execution, minus Paulson’s two-run shot, scored three runs on no hits to pave the way for the 5-1 win.
Sweets starter J.D. Leckenby retired the first seven hitters he faced and gave up three hits, including Peter Maris’ RBI single in the fifth, before giving way to Joe Arlt with a 5-1 lead.
“We got excellent starting pitching,” Biagi said. “J.D. has never exceeded 35 to 40 pitches this spring working out of the bullpen. He’s working his way back. We’ll start to see him extend as the season progresses.”
Arlt worked a scoreless 4 1/3 innings to wrap up the win.
“Joe came on and was lights out,” Biagi said. “It was an excellent game all the way around.”
Leckenby and Arlt struck out three on the mound, the outfield recorded three fly-outs, and the Sweets infield did the rest, accounting for 21-of-27 outs without committing an error. Second baseman Southall handled seven chances to lead the interior defense.
“We work a lot during BP on ground balls,” Southall said. “It shows when the game starts. Everybody played really well.”
The Sweets conclude the home stand today and open a six-game road trip Monday in Victoria.
“Offensively, we’re not where we need to be,” Biagi said. “We’d like to come through with guys on base. We’ve got to take care of that stuff to be good. (Defensively), a ton of ground balls. Our pitchers did a good job of inducing those ground balls and we take care of business when it comes our way.”
Walla Walla 5, Klamath Falls 1
Gems 000 010 000 — 1 4 1
Sweets 210 200 00x — 5 3 0
Lockwood, Hartnett (4), Lingos (5), Burke (8) and Meredith; Leckenby, Arlt (5) and Reay.
HR — WW: Paulson.
Hits — Gems: Brand 2, Brewster, Maris; WW: Paulson, Skrbec, Paulino.