WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla High School kicked off the Mid Columbia Conference baseball season on a winning note here Friday at Murr Sports Complex.
The Blue Devils swept Chiawana, 5-2 and 7-1.
“Chiawana is not a push over, and I don’t know that there is a push over in the Mid-Columbia,” Blue Devil coach Keith Gradwohl said. “We can still be better. It’s still early. Kids are buying into how we want to do things. There were a lot of positive things that went on out there today.”
Ryan Kimball got the Riverhawks in order with two strikeouts to open the day. In the home first, Blake McKinney doubled and Spencer Locati followed with a single which brought Reid Magnaghi to the plate with two on and two out. Magnaghi singled softly to center to score McKinney and Locati and the Blue Devils never looked back.
Locati tripled with one out in the third, and Zach Zehner got him home with a ground out. Magnaghi walked, stole second and scored on a misplayed fly ball to produce a 4-0 Blue Devil lead after three.
A two-run sixth inning single by Grady Graff cut the Wa-Hi lead to 4-2, but a sac fly to center by Anders Davidson delivered a Blue Devil insurance run in the home sixth.
Kimball held the Riverhawks in check through his six innings — allowing only four hits while striking out eight — although he gave up four walks and hit two batters.
“I struggled in the third and fourth, but started working my way back,” Kimball said. “My off-speed (pitches) were working pretty well. My fastball kept missing high as I opened up too quickly. When I’m struggling, I try to hit my spots really well and see if they can hit it and we can roll double plays.”
Locati finished with two hits and David Pontarolo added two plus a sacrifice bunt to lead the Blue Devil offense to the 5-2 win.
The Riverhawks took advantage of a Wa-Hi error to get on the board first in game two. With two outs and Wa-Hi down a run in the home first, Magnaghi delivered a run-scoring single to get the Blue Devils even at 1-1 after one.
“I have to put myself in the situation where I can be successful to make the team successful,” Magnaghi said of his first inning heroics. “What matters is that I contribute to the team.”
“Reid stays hot,” Gradwohl said of his senior center fielder. “He got clutch base hits with two outs. That hurts other teams when you produce runs with two outs.”
Locati’s RBI third-inning single sparked a two-run rally, and trailing 3-1, the wheels came off for the Riverhawks in the fourth. Chiawana committed two errors, Wa-Hi got singles from Trevor Coronado and Pontarolo and then Magnaghi legged out an infield RBI single, as the Blue Devil swelled the lead to 6-1 after four.
Magnaghi with a bunt single — one of seven Blue Devil bunts on the day that went for base hits or sacrifices — and an infield hit, tripled in the sixth to cap his 4-for-4 effort in the Wa-Hi win.
“We have been working a lot on bunting,” Magnaghi said. “As a team we have a good mindset of what the situation is and how the bunting contributes. If we get out, we want to move the player into scoring position to help the team. We continue to work on it, but we are doing well with bunting situations.”
Zehner went six innings on the mound in game two, and blanked the Riverhawks after the first on only four hits. McKinney, as he did in the opener, worked the seventh, retiring the side with the help of Wa-Hi’s second double play of the day in order to wrap up the 7-1 Wa-Hi win.
“Zehner was very solid,” Gradwohl said. “Zach, as a senior leader on the hill, is a guy we are counting on. He came through today.”
The Blue Devils (7-1 overall, 2-0 in the MCC) host Hanford Tuesday in a conference doubleheader.
Chiawana 000 002 0 — 2 4 1
Wa-Hi 202 001 X — 5 8 1
Black and Graff; Kimball, McKinney (7) and Watilo.
HR — none.
Hits — CHS: Vargas. Black, Miles, Graff; WHS: McKinney, Locati 2, Pontarolo 2, Magnaghi, Davidson, Sumerlin.
Chiawana 100 000 0 — 1 5 4
Wa-Hi 102 310 X — 7 11 1
Hirai, Vargas (6) and Graff; Zehner, McKinney (7) and Novak.
HR — none.
Hits — CHS: Vargas. Garcia, Graff, Bishop, Bennion; WHS: McKinney 2, Locati, Pontarolo, Magnaghi 4, Coronado 2, Kimball.