CHICO, Calif. — Speed kills, and the Walla Walla Bears used it to their advantage here Thursday during the opening round of the Chico Fathers Day Classic summer baseball tournament.
Trailing 5-4 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bears rallied for a pair of runs, capped by Moe Handcox’s dash to the plate on a wild pitch, and defeated the Tri-County Gamblers of Napa, Calif., 6-5.
“Moe is a special player,” Walla Walla coach Brian Kitamura said. “He’s been working hard and getting better every day. With his athleticism, he’s a game changer.”
The Bears stole four bases in the game, Kitamura said, and they also prevented several Tri-County scores by running down potential extra-base hits in the outfield.
“Utilizing our speed is essential to the brand of baseball we want to play,” Kitamura said. “Our guys are doing a good job of recognizing and executing in action situations more consistently.”
Trailing 2-0, the Bears plated three runs in the bottom of the third inning to secure a one-run lead, then added an insurance run in the fourth. But the Gamblers struck for three runs in the top of the seventh to regain the upper hand.
Daniel Camacho drew a one-out walk to get the Bears started in the bottom of the seventh. Handcox was then hit by a pitch and Tyler Hamilton followed with a single into left-center that plated Camacho and moved Handcox to third base.
After Peter Bakker drew a walk to put Bears at the corners, Handcox scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Handcox was also the winning pitcher after taking over for starter AJ Carkner with two out in the top of the seventh inning.
“AJ kept us in it all game long and gave us a chance to win,” Kitamura said of Carkner. “He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he battled through and made key pitches in critical spots. Both are traits many successful pitchers have. He’s really coming along well.”
The Classic continued today in Chico. The Bears took on the Spanish Springs Bandits of Spanish Springs, Nev., this morning at 8:30 and they face the host Chico Nuts this afternoon at 4:15.
Chico Father’s Day Classic
Bears 6, Gamblers 5
Tri-County 020 000 3 — 5 6 2
Walla Walla 003 100 2 — 6 5 1
Hernandez, Hoffman (5), Inouye (7) and Sanders, Bermudez (5); Carkner, Handcox (7) and Hamilton.
Hits — Tri-County: Gamba 2, Minton 2, Hoffman, Doyle; Walla Walla: Handcox, Hamilton, Zamora, Cordeiro, Lake.