VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Walla Walla Sweets launched a pair of home runs for the third time in their series against the Victoria HarbourCats, helping the ballclub to a 16-5 victory and the first sweep of the 2013 season Wednesday night.
Victoria has had a tough time holding opposing offenses scoreless in the first inning this season, and Sweets right fielder Kris Paulino took advantage of that and hit his first home run of the year — a grand slam — to set the tone early and lead Walla Walla to a 5-0 lead in the opening stanza.
Sweets left fielder Kramer Lindell proved to be a tough out yet again as he singled to center field to lead off the game. Lindell reached base in the top of the first inning in all three contests during the week at Royal Athletic Park.
Walla Walla third baseman John Skrbec and catcher Renae Martinez then walked to load the bases as shortstop Nick Vilter stepped to the plate. He was hit by the pitch to drive in a run and give Walla Walla an early 1-0 lead.
Paulino drove the first pitch he saw from starting pitcher Tanner Kiest over the right-center field wall, giving Walla Walla a 5-0 lead.
“I knew (Kiest) had some command problems early in the game, so I knew I’d get another fastball,” Paulino said. “It felt good.”
Walla Walla handed Kiest his second loss of the season in his first start this year as he exited after one inning of work.
Victoria followed with six more pitchers out of the bullpen, and none pitched more than 2 1/3 innings as only seven of the Sweets’ 16 runs were earned. HarbourCats pitching woes included 10 walks, of which seven scored.
Vilter was hit with a pitch twice as Sweets batters were plunked three times, and two of those scored.
Skrbec, who homered in the first two games of the series, didn’t go deep Wednesday night, but drew two walks, scored once, and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
“I’m not doing anything differently,” Skrbec said. “I guess I’m just seeing the ball pretty well, and it’s paying off.”
Vilter and designated hitter Spencer O’Neil also saw the ball well Wednesday night. Each man drove in five runs as O’Neil hit the second home run in the game, a three-run blast to right field in the sixth inning, as the club sent 10 men to the plate in the inning as Walla Walla jumped to a 13-3 lead in a seven-run inning.
Skrbec drove in the first run of the frame after second baseman Reggie Southall led off with a triple.
“Pitchers have been doing a good job of pitching around me, but I’m taking my approach seriously and getting the right pitch to hit,” Skrbec said.
Walla Walla (19-11) outscored the home team 33-8 over the week as the Sweets move two games ahead of the Wenatchee AppleSox (17-13) in first place in the WCL North Division.
Jonathan Harris takes the mound for the Sweets tonight as they begin a three-game series in Corvallis against the Knights with a 6:40 p.m. first pitch.
Walla Walla 16, Victoria 5
Walla Walla 500 107 300 — 16 8 0
Victoria 100 112 000 — 5 14 5
Helton, Arlt (5), Zandona (7), Christina (9) and Martinez, Reay. Kiest, Navilhon (2), Record (4), Lombana (4), Russell (6), Keller (6), Cuneo (7) and Real.
HR — WW: Paulino, O’Neil; Vic: D. Schuknecht.
Hits — WW: Lindell, Mendenhall, Paulson, Vilter, Paulino, O’Neil, Southall 2. Vic: J. Schuknecht 2, Real 3, Nesovic, Ellis, Russell, DeGoti 2, Lewis 2, D. Schuknecht, LaVelle.