WALLA WALLA — Bend’s Derek Dixon squared up a hanging breaking pitch and belted it over the trees in left field for a two-run home run in first inning action at Borleske Stadium in Friday against the Walla Walla Sweets in West Coast League collegiate baseball play.
Walla Walla battled uphill all night following Dixon’s second home run in as many nights. But the Sweets reached the mountaintop with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out an 8-7 win to take the rubber game of the three-game set and improve to 2-1 in league play.
“We saw a bit of everything,” Sweets coach J.C. Biagi said. “It was a wild night from the get-go. We were fighting ’til the end and pulled out a one-run game. Games like this are good for us.”
The Sweets dropped Tyler Servais’ foul pop-up, and Servais used his second life to produce a run-scoring single to highlight a three-run Elks third that swelled Bend’s lead to 6-2.
The Sweets only got two hits — a first-inning infield single from Kramer Lindell and a Kevin Hawk fourth inning single — off Elks’ starting pitcher Jesse Scholtens, but got within 6-3 after four.
The Elks got back-to-back singles from Anthony Villa and Zach Close to score once and load the bases with two outs in the Bend fifth. Joe Ault was summoned from the Sweets bullpen, but had to be replaced before throwing a pitch because of a roster mix-up.
“I asked who could get hot quick,” Biagi said. “Josh (Wagner) said he could and credit him, he steadied our pitching as we were out of the zone early. He (Wagner) held his ground.”
Wagner entered with the bases loaded and the Sweets trailing 7-3. Wagner struck out Justin Bohn to end the Elk threat.
“I threw three pitches in the bullpen and got hot right away,” Wagner said. “I had to fill up the (strike) zone and let my defense work behind me.”
Wagner blanked the Elks on four hits and four strikeouts until being relieved by Connor Lawhead with one out in the ninth and the Sweets trailing 7-6.
“I’ve been in this situation multiple times,” Wagner said. “You don’t want to make more of the situation than it is. I was able to throw all four of my pitches for strikes, (Sweets catcher Kevin) Hawk called a great game, and we kept them off balance.”
Lawhead came on with one out and two on in the top of the ninth.
Villa greeted Lawhead with a single to load the bases. Lawhead enticed Close to bounce to third baseman Jared Gonzales, who fired to second baseman Scott Silva, whose relay to first baseman Matt Mendenhall beat Close for an inning ending double play.
The Sweets, who scored three times in the eighth behind singles from Mike Paulson, Spencer O’Neil and an RBI roller up the first-base line that refused to go foul from Hawk, narrowed the gap to 7-6 heading to the ninth.
John Skrbec reached on an error to start the Sweets ninth. Paulson drew a walk, and Mendenhall was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
O’Neil then struck out, but Bret Helton hit a hard grounder to third and in their haste to turn a double play, the Elks’ relay throw to first bounced to the fence behind first base. Skrbec scored the tying run and Paulson raced home with the game-winner on the play to give the Sweets the improbable 8-7 win.
“It was a huge win for us,” Wagner said. “We win the first series of the summer, and to win like that will give us momentum going forward.”
The Sweets opened a two-game non-league series with the San Francisco Seals Saturday.
Walla Walla 8, Bend 7
Bend 303 010 000 — 7 13 3
Walla Walla 110 100 032 — 8 7 1
Scholtens, Ring(6), Borde (8), Huckins (9) and Servais; Jones, Hall (3), Wagner (5), Lawhead (9) and Hawk, Hammond (9).
HR — Bend: Dixon.
Hits — Bend: Servais 2, Dixon 2, Gill, Spivey, Giusti, Villa 3, Close 2, Grantham; WW: Lindell 2, Hawk 2, Silva, O’Neil, Paulson.