WALLA WALLA — So close.
After dropping the opener of a West Coast League doubleheader to Wenatchee 2-1 in extra innings, Walla Walla turned the second game over to a lanky, 6-foot-6 southpaw out of Ball State.
Chris Lovejoy gave the Sweets what they needed to bounce back after their four-game winning streak was snapped in the opener with a 2-0 shutout in the nightcap.
The twin bill was scheduled for two seven-inning affairs after rain postponed Wednesday’s game, but the opener went nine before the AppleSox scored the winning run.
Lovejoy took a 2-0 lead and a no-hitter into the seventh and final inning of the second game —as defined in WCL doubleheader rules — and got the first two outs on flys to centerfielder Luke Persico.
“All I was thinking about was getting that final ground ball to get that last guy out,” Lovejoy said.
It wasn’t to be, as Wenatchee’s Jake Bruml hit a shot up the middle that Lovejoy deflected off his ankle toward second baseman Scott Silva. Silva had no chance to recover as Bruml beat the play for an infield hit and broke up Lovejoy’s no-hit bid.
“It (Bruml’s shot) came straight at me,” Lovejoy said. “I just couldn’t react fast enough. It didn’t hurt (physically) at all. All I had to do was refocus and get that last guy.”
Lovejoy “got that last guy” by getting a called third strike by Eric Hutting to wrap up the onehit shutout.
“It’s huge for your morale after losing a game, to come back and win a game,” Lovejoy said. “It makes the team feel better.”
“Lovejoy holds the ground for us and we get enough (runs) to win,” Sweets coach J.C. Biagi said. “It was a nice cap to the day. It keeps us where we need to be and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Lovejoy struck out four, walked four, enticed eight ground outs, and nine fly outs in posting his one hitter.
“That’s the type of pitcher I am. I get ground outs and fly outs and don’t strike out many,” Lovejoy said. “We have a No. 10 (Nick Vilter) over at shortstop that did a lot of work for me tonight. And Scott Silva over at second base, the two of them just made plays all night.”
Vilter, who just returned to the Sweets on Monday from UC Riverside, made four errorless plays behind Lovejoy, but focused only on getting outs.
“In the seventh inning, after we get the first out, I was curious to see how many hits they had,” Vilter said. “I had no idea and I turned around (to look at the scoreboard) and I see zero. I thought ‘Oh wow,’ we’ve got to go make a play here.”
The Sweets scored just once and only got five hits in dropping the nine-inning first game 2-1, but Vilter bounced a triple off the left center fence to open the Sweets second.
“You have to trust your work, and it will come around (offensively),” Vilter said. “It (the triple) felt great.”
Jared Gonzales followed with a RBI single to right and the Sweets had all Lovejoy would need.
A one-out double from Persico, and consecutive opposite field singles from Renae Martinez and Silva, tacked on a Sweets run in the fifth.
“We manufactured a couple of runs,” Biagi said. “They (Martinez and Silva) found the big hole on the right side and we were able to push one across.”
In the opener, the Sweets scored first on a bases loaded walk to Reggie Southall, but Andre Real answered with a towering shot into Ray Lane Field beyond the left field fence to tie it at 1-1 after six.
The Sweets wasted Jon Harris’ pitching performance. Harris pitched 7 2/3 innings, left in a 1-1 tie after 116 pitches, giving up five hits and striking out nine.
The AppleSox got an opposite-field, run-scoring double from Brett Stephens in the ninth to produce the winning run.
“That first game was really disappointing,” Biagi said. “I felt confident that we were going to score some runs. They (AppleSox pitchers, Bruml, Lars Rider, and Tyler Kane), were pretty tough on us. Credit to them.”
The Sweets open a three-game set with Medford tonight at Borleske.
Wenatchee 000 001 001 — 2 8 0
Walla Walla 000 010 000 — 1 5 1
Bruml, Rider (6), Kane (9) and Harris; Harris, Lawhead (8) and Miroglio.
HR — Wen: Real.
Hits — Wen: Palmer 2, Taylor, Stephens 2, Real, Bartleson, Steffler; WW: Skrbec, Lindell, Mendenhall, Vilter, Miroglio.
Wenatchee 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
Walla Walla 010 010 x — 2 6 0
Kerns and Hutting; Lovejoy and Martinez.
Hits — Wen: Bruml; WW: Skrbec, Vilter, Gonzales, Persico, Martinez, Silva.