WENATCHEE — The last time Walla Walla Sweets starting pitcher Chris Lovejoy faced the Wenatchee AppleSox, the left-hander tossed 6 2/3 frames of hitless baseball.
Tuesday night in the road series opener, fortunes changed for Walla Walla as fielding errors and a 16-hit AppleSox offensive barrage led to a 10-1 Wenatchee win at Paul Thomas Field.
The Sweets’ offense began rolling fluidly with an early lead off single by second baseman John Skrbec in the top of the first.
First baseman Matt Mendenhall followed with a single to move Skrbec to third, and third baseman Jarod Gonzales brought a run home with a sacrifice fly to give Walla Walla a 1-0 advantage.
The Sweets (23-20) led the West Coast League in fielding percentage during the first week of July, but an uncharacteristically poor defensive night Tuesday led to a season-high six errors and three unearned runs scoring.
Wenatchee (24-22) responded immediately with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back.
AppleSox shortstop Joe Mello one-upped Skrbec with a double in his first at-bat, and advanced to third base by virtue of a fielding error in center.
Wenatchee right fielder Ryan Barr grounded out, but drove in the tying run after just six pitches in the inning.
On pitch number seven, center fielder Brock Slavin doubled and later scored when first baseman Connor Spencer reached on an error at second base.
The AppleSox’s Kramer Ferrell took things from bad to worse as he also reached on a second consecutive miscue, this time at shortstop, but both men were left stranded as Lovejoy ended the inning with a ground out.
In the third inning, Wenatchee proved that lightning can strike twice, sending 10 men to the plate in the frame.
Second baseman Andre Real grounded to short, but a fourth error, again at shortstop, allowed him to reach.
As if the baseball grew a mind (or legs) of its own, a fifth error in the very next at-bat off Spencer’s single up the middle put two runners on for Ferrell, who grounded to shortstop on the first pitch. That putout still sent Real home for a 3-1 AppleSox edge, as back-to-back singles brought left fielder Brett Stephens to the plate. Stephens hammered a 1-1 pitch out of the ballpark for a three-run home run to cap the five-run inning, putting Wenatche ahead 7-1.
Lovejoy faced nine hitters in that fifth frame, and with two outs was replaced by right-hander Danny Zandona, who quickly induced a fly out to end the threat.
However, Wenatchee still tagged Zandona for a pair of earned runs over his 4 1/3 innings of long relief.
Spencer began the fourth inning with a home run to pad the AppleSox’s lead at 8-1.
Spencer, who was held to only two hits in eight at-bats in the series between these two clubs in Walla Walla earlier this season, enjoyed a 4-for-5 night, scoring three times for the home crowd. In the sixth, he led off with a single, and scored from second base on a 4-6-3 double play, putting the home team Sox ahead 9-1.
Walla Walla newcomer Jesse Houser made his first appearance with the Sweets Tuesday, tossing a full inning and allowing just a pair of base hits.
An error at third base in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed Wenatchee pinch hitter Joey Jansen to reach, eventually scoring an unearned run to cap the scoring at 10-1.
Despite the loss, an extra-inning defeat for Bellingham (24-21) keeps the Bells and Sweets in a two-way tie for first place in the WCL North division. As Bellingham has played 45 games this season, and Wenatchee has completed 46 — three more than Walla Walla — the Sweets are afforded wiggle room to make up ground in a tight playoff race.
Walla Walla sends 2013 All-Star left-hander Matt Hall to the mound in game two against the AppleSox at 7:05 p.m. today.
Wenatchee 10, Walla Walla 1
Sweets 100 000 000 — 1 7 6
AppleSox 205 101 01x — 10 16 0
Lovejoy, Zandona (3), Houser (8) and Martinez, Lindell. Patke, Rohrbach (7) and Harris.
HRs — Wen: Spencer, Stephens.
Hits — WW: Skrbec, Mendenhall, Vilter, Wylie, O’Neil 2, Paulson. Wen: Mello 2, Barr, Slavin, Real, Spencer 4, Ferrell, Jansen, Harris, Taylor 2, Stephens 2.