WALLA WALLA — An improbable seventh inning led Walla Walla High School to a split of its non-conference baseball doubleheader with previously unbeaten Lewiston High School here Thursday at Murr Sports Complex.
The Bengals won the opener 6-3 to push their record to 5-0 and earn coach Tom Grunenfelder his 400th career win at the Bengal helm.
The Bengals scored in the top of the seventh to grab a 2-1 lead in the night cap, but Wa-Hi, behind an infield hit, a hit batsman, a walk, and two Bengal errors, scored twice to pull out a 3-2 win and send Lewiston to its first defeat.
“It’s the second time we’ve given up a lead or tie and come back and won,” Wa-Hi coach Keith Gradwohl said. “That’s character that comes within the fabric of them. We didn’t pound the ball, we put the ball in play and made things happen.”
Junior Ruiz’s infield hit started the second game for the Blue Devils. Blake McKinney moved Ruiz to second with a sacrifice bunt and Ruiz scored when Lewiston mishandled Ali Buentello’s infield pop up.
The Bengals got even in the third.
Kyler Brooks beat out a slow roller as Bryce Wakefield, who had singled to start the Bengal third, scored.
Wa-Hi’s Adam Mathews and Lewiston’s Tyler Charlo kept it 1-1 to the top of the seventh. Charlo hit a bloop wind-blown double down the right-field line that Blue Devil right fielder Anthony Arellano made a long run and dive to make the catch. But as he rolled, the ball popped out and Wakefield, who had singled with two outs and stole second, scooted around to give the Bengals a 2-1 lead.
“That was a great effort by Anthony,” Gradwohl said. “I was thinking we were just unlucky. It goes in his glove until he rolls, and it falls out.”
“Those things happen,” Wa-Hi pitcher Mathews said. “It’s part of the game, and you just have to keep going.”
Lefty side-armer Aaron Kracke relieved Charlo to start the home seventh.
With one out, Ruiz legged out a slow roller, McKinney worked a walk, and Mathews was nicked by a pitch to load the bases. Daniel Camacho’s grounder was booted as Ruiz scored to tie the game.
Buentello hit into a forceout at the plate, and with two outs and the winning run at third, J.J. Zamora tapped one between the pitcher and first base. Kracke stopped the ball, but could not pick it up as Zamora was safe and Mathews scored the game winner.
“I was scared,” Mathews said of Wa-Hi’s rally. “I knew we could do it, as we battled through a lot worse last year. It was all a matter of how we reacted to the situation we were in.”
“Good teams make breaks,” Gradwohl said of the Blue Devil seventh. “We have kids that battle.”
Mathews pitched a complete game; a nine hit, five strike out, one walk performance.
Wa-Hi turned two 6-4-3 (McKinney to David Pontarola to Nathan Sumerlin) double plays to get Mathews out of jams.
“When I come into the dugout, I put on my heavy jacket to keep my arm warm and move around as much as I can,” Mathews said of his effort to stay warm on a cold, windy afternoon. “I did OK (on the mound). I didn’t throw as many first-pitch strikes as I should’ve. I tried to battle.”
The Bengals used two walks, a double steal, and Wakefield’s RBI single to score three in the second inning of the opener.
A walk and an error added one in the fifth. Mathews’ wind-blown double knocked in two for Wa-Hi in the fifth to cut the Bengal lead to 4-2.
Wa-Hi, trailing 4-2 in the sixth, had two on and no outs. Lewiston came up with a force at third on an attempted sacrifice bunt and a diving catch in center by Wakefield to quell the threat.
Three walks in the seventh (Wa-Hi pitchers walked eight in the game) led to two Bengal runs, but Wa-Hi stormed back in the bottom of the inning.
Kelton Fulmer drew a lead-off walk, Mathews singled and Camacho walked to load the bases with one out. Fulmer scored on a throwing error. Zane Henderson blooped a ball over the Bengal shortstop, but Mathews had to hesitate at third, and Bengal left fielder Sawyer Meachan threw a strike to the plate to force Mathews for the second out, and Wa-Hi got no closer.
“We were a bit unlucky,” Gradwohl said of the first game. “(But) we had a chance to win in the last inning. We just have to get better at throwing strikes. You can’t walk a ton of guys and expect to win.”
Wa-Hi, now 2-2, opens Mid-Columbia Conference play Tuesday when Richland visits for a conference doubleheader at 2 p.m.
“I feel comfortable with anybody we stick out there,” Gradwohl said. “We’ve got some things to work on, but we’re feeling pretty good.”
Lewiston 030 010 2 — 6 6 1
Wa-Hi 000 020 1 — 3 4 1
Brooks, Kracke (7), Charlo (7) and Ralstin; Reardon, Zehner (4), McKinney (7) and Fulmer.
HR — none.
Hits — LHS: Fuller, Ewing, Wakefield 2, Ralstin 2; Wa-Hi: Lake, Henderson, Mathews 2.
Lewiston 001 000 1 — 2 9 6
Wa-Hi 100 000 2 — 3 3 1
Charlo, Kracke (7) and Ralstin; Mathews and Watilo.
HR — none.
Hits — LHS: Wakefield 3, Charlo 3, Brooks, Ewing 2; Wa-Hi: Ruiz 2, Sumerlin.