WALLA WALLA — Reid Magnaghi’s third hit and fourth run batted in of the day gave Walla Walla a dramatic 6-5 walk-off victory over Richland Thursday afternoon at Murr Field in a Central Washington Junior American Legion baseball game.
Kal Gray scored the winning run after he was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gray advanced to second on Ryan Kimball’s sacrifice bunt and raced home on Magnaghi’s two-out liner into the right-center field gap.
The victory kept Walla Walla atop the Central Washington League standings with an 11-2 record. Richland is second with an 11-4 record as the teams square off this afternoon at 5 in a league doubleheader at Fran Rich Stadium in Richland.
“These are key games for us,” Bruins coach Jason Parsons said.
Zach Zehner pitched all nine innings for Walla Walla and righted the ship after giving up six hits and four runs in the first two innings as the Knights assumed a 4-1 lead.
“Zach allowed just one hit from the third inning on,” Parsons said of Zehner, who struck out just one and walked four in his complete-game effort. “He kept us in the game by keeping his pitch count down and gave us a chance to come back and win.
“They were pounding his hard stuff,” Parsons said of the Knights’ early offense. “So Zach started to go to his off-speed stuff and started to locate his pitches. And it worked wonders for him.
“Zach has been good for us all summer.”
The teams matched single runs in the first inning, with Ali Buentello and Adam Eskil drawing back-to-back walks to begin the Bruins’ first and Gray delivering an RBI single. But the Knights struck for three runs in the top of the second as Griffey March, Carson Miller and Mitch Piper each delivered a run-scoring hit.
The Bruins got one run back in the third when Gray was hit by a pitch and later scored on a Magnaghi single. But Richland plated a run in the sixth to regain a three-run advantage, 5-2.
Blake McKinney opened the Walla Walla seventh by drawing a walk and then advancing to second on a balk. Eskil singled McKinney to third base and Gray was once again hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.
Kimball was thrown out at first base on an infield grounder that scored McKinney and moved Eskil and Gray into scoring position. And Magnaghi’s second hit of the day scored them both and knotted the score at 5-5.
And it also set the stage for Magnaghi’s game-winning hit two innings later.
Walla Walla bumped its season record to 26-5.
Following today’s doubleheader in Richland, Walla Walla faces three more key league games early next week against third-place Hanford. The teams play a doublheader Monday at 5:30 p.m. on the Walla Walla Community College diamond and a single nine-inning game Tuesday at Hanford beginning at 5 p.m.
Bruins 6, Knights 5
Richland 130 001 000 — 5 7 2
Walla Walla 101 000 301 — 6 7 3
Car. Miller, Webb (8) and March; Zehner and Daniel, Watilo (4).
Hits — Richland: Perryman 2, March, Car. Miller, Piper 2, Cha. Miller; WW: Eskil, Gray, Kimball, Sumerlin, Magnaghi 3.