WALLA WALLA — After being outscored 29-12 in dropping two of three games to Cowlitz, the Walla Walla Sweets returned to Borleske Saturday night and got back on track with a 9-2 nonleague baseball victory over the Central Oregon Bucks.
“Everybody kind of had a sour taste in their mouth after the Cowlitz series,” manager J.C. Biagi said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get back to some of the things we talk about in terms of our approach at the plate, and it gives some guys needed ABs (at-bats) where they haven’t had them on a regular basis. We want to make sure we’re keeping everyone involved the best way we can because at any point, as we finish this thing up, everybody is going to be called upon in a pretty important role.”
Jake Wylie took care of this one early after the first four Sweets reached base in the first inning. Jarod Gonzales started it with a single, Jono Herkins beat out an infield hit, and then stole second. The Bucks mishandled the throw to get Herkins, and Gonzales scored the first run.
Matt Mendenhall walked, and Nick Vilter was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Wylie. Wylie didn’t disappoint, as the Linfield College product deposited a grand-slam home run over the left field fence and the Sweets led 5-0 with no outs in the home first.
That was more than enough for Sweets starting pitcher Joe Arlt. Arlt sailed through seven innings and allowed only three hits and two runs. He struck out five and turned the game over to Connor Lawhead to start the eighth with the Sweets safely up 9-2.
“Joe has at times struggled a bit,” Biagi said. “We thought it was important for him to come out and have some quality innings and be able to use all of his stuff within the longevity of the game. He obviously threw very well tonight.”
Wylie doubled and scored in the third as the Sweets played add on. Vilter knocked in a run in the fourth, Spencer O’Neil’s sac-fly got Beau Bozett, who reached on one of his three hits on the night, home in the sixth. Zach Reay wrapped this one up offensively with an RBI double in the seventh.
Lawhead came on to close the game in the eighth. He fanned all six Bucks he faced.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to get on the field and continue to play rather than having the days off,” Biagi said. “These guys can go out and prove to themselves they are capable and can be good in those (game) situations.”
The Sweets and Bellingham are tied for first in the North with 23-19 records. Walla Walla concludes its nonleague season tonight against the Bucks at 5 before embarking on their last 12 regular season games with a trip to Wenatchee Tuesday.
Walla Walla 9, Central Oregon 2
Bucks 000 001 100 — 2 3 2
Sweets 501 101 10x — 9 11 3
Wilson, Painton (5), Nilson (7) and Dean, Stiles (4); Arlt, Lawhead (8) and Reay.
HR — WW: Wylie.
Hits — Bucks: Harpole, McDonald, Stiles; WW: Gonzales, Herkins, Wylie 2, Bozett 3, Silva, Reay, Vilter, Reay.