WALLA WALLA — Hurry up and wait.
That was the protocol for Walla Walla Sweets batters on Sunday, pushed in their early at-bats to the point of tedium by San Francisco Seals starter Rob Monchak’s struggles with command.
It was the mantra for Sweets leadoff hitter John Skrbec, who didn’t get a truly good pitch to hit in his first plate appearance — then lashed screaming home runs over the left field wall in his next two turns at bat.
It will be the challenge today and Tuesday, as the hottest team in the West Coast League enjoys two days off after chalking up four consecutive victories to cap an auspicious season-opening homestand.
A 17-3 clobbering of the Seals — a Far West League team — at sun-splashed Borleske Stadium brings Walla Walla to the first official pause in its summer campaign.
“We’re on a roll right now,” said Skrbec, a sophomore out of North Dakota State whose towering two-run bomb in the bottom of the second inning was the showpiece in a 10-run Walla Walla rally.
He added that the two-day layoff “doesn’t really matter for us.”
“We have momentum going, either way,” Skrbec said. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
Skrbec had drawn a six-pitch walk from Monchak in a drawn-out but uneventful first frame, the Seals’ lefty flaunting quality stuff but straining to locate it in the strike zone. After walking Skrbec and then Mike Paulson, Monchak struck out the next three batters he faced.
But he needed 29 pitches to preserve what was then a 2-0 lead, a red flag for San Francisco and a checkered one for the selective, patient Sweets (4-1).
The key against a pitcher like Monchak, Sweets shortstop Scott Silva said, is “you’ve gotta sit on one pitch, look for that one pitch — and hammer it.”
Skrbec never got that “one pitch” in his first at-bat, but saw a fastball he liked in the second, and put it in the trees behind the left field wall.
“Against pitchers like that, you have to be picky up there,” said Skrbec, who has hit safely in all five games this summer. “You may only get one pitch to hit.”
The Sweets’ 10-run second, which included an RBI-triple by Jarod Gonzalez and two-run single by Kevin Hawk, was aided by five Monchak walks — on top of the two he issued in the first.
But neither the dearth of hittable pitches nor the near-instant 10-2 lead seemed to disrupt Walla Walla’s focus, much to head coach J.C. Biagi’s delight.
“Postgame, we talked about maintaining a good approach,” the skipper said. “We talked about swinging at good pitches. All it takes is one good pitch per at-bat.”
Walla Walla continued to add and separate, scoring two runs in each of the third, sixth and seventh innings and a lone marker in the eighth.
Sweets pitchers, meanwhile, stayed in the strike zone and refused to let the lopsided margin affect their tempo.
Starter Connor Dillman scattered nine hits with two walks over five innings to earn the win, striking out five.
Joe Arlt, Jake Campeau, Colin Serkowski and Sean-Luke Brija each pitched a scoreless panel in relief, with the latter three combining to allow no hits over the final three innings.
Skrbec led off the bottom of the third by banging a Monchak curveball out of the park and finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs.
Silva was 2-for-5 and is now five for his last 10.
Gonzalez was 2-for-3, and Luke Persisco also had two base hits.
The next 48 hours won’t exactly be a siesta for the Sweets, although Biagi said after the game he hopes to sneak in some fishing on the Walla Walla River. Players worked out at Borleske today and will make the long bus-ride to Klamath Falls Tuesday, where the team opens a three-game set Wednesday.
A three-game series at Medford follows, with Game 1 Saturday.
“Over the last week, we’ve gone at it pretty hard,” said Biagi. “A layoff isn’t necessarily a bad thing for us. Of course, there’s the momentum thing. But I look for us to pick up where we left off on Wednesday in Klamath Falls.”
In the meantime, Skrbec added, “I’ll get my work in.”
West Coast League pitchers can consider that a warning.
Walla Walla Sweets 17, San Francisco Seals 3
San Francisco 200 100 000 — 3 10 3
Walla Walla 0(10)2 002 21x — 17 14 0
Moncha, Zavala (3), Sailors (7), Torres (8) and Piscopo; Dillman, Arlt (6), Campeau (7), Serkowski (8), Brija (9).
HRs: WW: Skrbec 2.
Hits: SF: Mayo 3, Coughlin, Rojko, Strawn 2, Furia, Torres, Piscopo. WW: Skrbec 2, Gonzalez 2, Paulson, Holbrook, Jones, O’Neill, Silva 2, Southall, Hawk, Persico 2.