MEDFORD, Ore. — Walla Walla Sweets starter Matt Hall didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning on Father’s Day against the Medford Rogues, but the Sweets still found themselves in need of a ninth inning comeback Sunday at Harry and David Field.
Walla Walla rallied with five runs in the top of the ninth for a 6-5 win.
Sunday’s victory follows Saturday’s 6-4 Walla Walla victory in the first matchup ever between the Rogues and Sweets.
On Friday, Klamath Falls completed a sweep of the Sweets with a 6-1 win.
On Sunday, Sweets closer Sean-Luke Brija came into the ninth inning to secure the victory, and it was a special one for the right-hander on Father’s Day.
He lost his father five years ago to cancer, and has written the word “dad” underneath the bill of his hats. Before every outing on the mound, he draws a cross and the initials “GLB” in the dirt to honor his late father.
“When I pitch, or when I’m on the mound, that’s when I feel him the most,” Brija said. “I just love to throw, and I was priviledged to throw on Father’s Day. It means a lot to me.”
If it weren’t for the Sweets five-run top of the ninth, Brija would never have gotten that opportunity.
Hall was stellar in his first start of the year, retiring the first seven hitters he faced Sunday evening, keeping a no-hitter alive into the fifth inning.
The first Rogues baserunner came in the third when catcher Bo Cornish reached on an error at third base. Hall went right back to work, retiring the next eight consecutive batters before walking Cornish to lead off the sixth.
With Cornish at second base, it was in that sixth frame that second baseman Jake Whisler notched the first base hit for Medford, a two-out single that dropped into shallow right field, scoring Cornish for a late 1-0 lead.
Designated hitter Kevin Davidson walked with two outs in the seventh. With pinch runner Shakeel Newton running in his place, third baseman Caleb Palensky hit a triple to send him home for a 2-0 Rogues lead.
Walla Walla responded in the eighth as first baseman Matt Mendenhall led off with a double to left field. Centerfielder Luke Persico drove him home with a single to shave the lead to 2-1, but it was the Sweets’ five-run ninth inning comeback that made for a special Father’s Day win.
Pinch hitter Mike Paulson started the ninth with a strikeout before left fielder Kramer Lindell singled and third baseman John Skrbec followed with a walk.
Pinch hitter Spencer O’Neil flew out to center field for the second out, but catcher Zach Reay was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
With Mendenhall again at the plate, he drove an 0-1 pitch to the left field wall that scored Lindell and Skrbec for Walla Walla’s first lead of the game, one they’d never let go.
Persico put the Sweets ahead with three more insurance runs by way of a two-run triple, and he scored on the play when the relay throw missed the catcher on a play at the plate, giving the Sweets a commanding 6-2 lead.
Sweets reliever Josh Wagner faced four hitters in the bottom of the ninth, retiring one and hitting a batter before Palensky ended his night with an RBI single.
Brija took his place, but with runners at first and third, committed a balk, sending pinch runner Colin Sowers home.
At 6-4, Brija got pinch hitter Danny McNabb to ground out, advancing Palensky a base. Short stop Corey Wynant singled to score Palensky, but Brija came back and ended the game with a strikeout to seal the 6-5 win.
A stellar eight innings gave Hall his first win of the season as he struck out two and walked two, allowing just two hits and two earned runs. Facing eight hitters in one inning of work, Rogues closer Chad Hockin took his first loss of the year.
On Saturday, Walla Walla got its offense off to a quick start to win 6-4 in the first game ever played between the Sweets and Medford Rogues at Harry & David Field, as Sweets starting pitcher Sean Silva earned his first win of the season.
The Sweets took a 4-0 lead into the third inning where they scored another run on first baseman Mendenhall’s sacrifice fly. Ahead 5-0, Silva had the support he needed.
“It gives you a lot of confidence to go out there and throw strikes when you have five runs in support,” the older Silva said. “I got run support pretty early, and then good pitch calling by (catcher) Dom (Miroglio), and good defense behind me.”
“It’s a good start for us to get something going here for two more games,” Silva said. “Then we’ll go on the home stretch at home in Walla Walla.”
On Friday, the Sweets dropped the third and final game of their first road series of 2013, a 6-1 final, as they were swept by the Klamath Falls Gem.
Gems starting pitcher Brandon Horth struck out eight and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
The Sweets offense was sat down in order five different times on the night.
“We had a tough time hitting. We had a tough time pitching, and fielding,” Mendendhall said after the game. “They hit the ball really well. You have to give credit to them.”
Mendenhall drove in the only Sweets run of the game as he scored himself on a first-pitch home run to left field with two outs in the seventh inning. It was just one of two Sweets hits on the night.
“It was kind of out of frustration,” Mendenhall said of the short at-bat. “I just squared one up, finally.”
The Sweets are now 4-4 in the West Coast League, and go for the sweep of Medford at 6:35 p.m. tonight before returning home to face Wenatchee at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday.