LONGVIEW, Wash. — It was a rude “welcome back” to the second half of the 2013 West Coast League season for the Walla Walla Sweets as they left Story Field with a 16-2 defeat to the Cowlitz Black Bears Wednesday night.
Walla Walla starting pitcher Jonathan Harris lasted just two-thirds of an inning, being charged with five earned runs on five hits in his sixth loss of the year.
The visiting Sweets (22-18) were retired in order in the top of the first inning as Cowlitz right-hander Zane Bambush retired the first five hitters he faced before allowing a two-out single to Sweets catcher Renae Martinez. Bambush earned the win in his first start with Cowlitz (19-18), striking out five over six innings pitched, being tagged for two earned runs in the sixth inning.
Walla Walla third baseman Jarod Gonzales slapped a one-out single into right field in the sixth, and advanced to second base when first baseman Matt Mendenhall walked behind him.
The second of Bambush’s three walks on the night to Sweets designated hitter Spencer O’Neil loaded the bases for pinch hitter Dominic Miroglio, who grounded into a fielder’s choice, allowing Gonzales to score the first run of the game for Walla Walla.
Sweets shortstop Nick Vilter followed with a single to left field on the first pitch he received to drive Mendenhall in.
Two runs were all the Sweets could muster as they found themselves behind a seemingly insurmountable lead by the first inning.
Walla Walla lefty reliever Joe Arlt took over for Harris with two outs in the bottom of the first, surrendering a walk but inducing a fly-out to end the threat.
Continuing into the second, the Black Bears struck for five more earned runs on four hits over Arlt’s 1 1/3 innings on the mound.
Behind 10-0, Walla Walla left-hander Drew Christina replaced Arlt. Christina had good stuff, striking out the side looking in the fourth as he collected six strikeouts in four innings of work.
Yet Cowlitz proved difficult outs, scoring six earned runs off the Walla Walla native. Perhaps the biggest blow was a three-run home run with two out in the fifth.
On a full count breaking ball, catcher Danny Recio pulled the Christina offering over the left-field wall for his first long ball of the year.
Cowlitz tallied three more runs in the sixth inning, all with two outs.
Sweets righty Danny Zandona finished the game, throwing two innings and allowing just two hits, a walk and a strikeout while keeping the Black Bears from scoring.
Walla Walla loaded the bases in the top of the ninth inning, but Mendenhall popped out in foul ground to put the cap on the 16-2 Black Bears victory.
First pitch of game two of the series is at 6:35 p.m. today, with Sweets right-hander Cody Poteet (2-0) on the mound at Story Field.
Black Bears 16, Sweets 2
Walla Walla 000 002 000 — 2 6 0
Cowlitz 550 033 00x — 16 17 0
Harris, Arlt (1), Christina (3), Zandona and Martinez, Miroglio. Bambush, Wilson (7), Johnson (9) and Recio, Reece.
HRs — Cow: Recio.
Hits — WW: Gonzales, Mendenhall, O’Neil, Martinez, Vilter, Herkins; Cow: Knigge 2, Salberg, Bolasky 3, Recio, Martinez, Pinkston 2, Littlefield, Grebeck, Bryant 2, Van Domeien 3.