WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla Sweets hammered out seven hits, collected six walks, took two hit-by-pitches and scored five runs only to lose, 8-5, at Borleske Stadium Tuesday night against the Kelowna Falcons in West Coast League action.
“I’m really pleased with our offense,” Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. “It doesn’t always look great on the scoreboard with seven hits, but then you couple that with some hit-by-pitches and six or seven walks — you find yourself with a lot of opportunities to score.
“That is really what it is made of, getting guys on base and trying to convert those runs,” he said.
Walla Walla has been putting runs on the board early on in the season. Holding other teams down has been the main problem, and it was no different here Tuesday night.
The Sweets trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth and were able to score four runs over the next two innings to tie it up.
“I thought there were some really good things that took place offensively in that fighting back,” Biagi said. “It just wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough early on. We had some opportunities early on, we had a lot of base runners, but it was little bit too little, too late.”
Walla Walla left eight runners stranded on-base during innings three through six, and the bullpen held the Falcons down long enough for the Sweets to tie it — but not much longer.
After tying the game on RBI singles from Jarod Gonzales, Andrew Mendenhall and sacrifice fly RBI from Kyle Nixon and Mendenhall in the fifth and sixth innings, the Walla Walla bullpen — manned by Dillon Dove for three innings — held until the eighth inning.
In the top of the eighth, the Falcons broke the game open on an RBI single by Trey Kamachi and an RBI double by Scotland Church to take the 7-5 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, John Skrbec reached on an error with one out, but the Sweets couldn’t muster any further offense.
In the top of the ninth, the Falcons’ Max Schuman hit a towering fly-ball solo home run to right field to pad the lead at 8-5.
The Sweets went meekly in the ninth, as the Falcons’ fourth pitcher on the night, Josh Nuernberg, struck out the side.
Sweets starter Jay Flaa lasted five innings and gave up five runs.
“He (Jay Flaa) is going to be a guy likely to work in the bullpen down the road,” Biagi said. “We were just in a spot tonight where we needed our best available guy on the mound and he went after it.
“In his career, he has been reliever with a few starts here and there. It is tough spot where we had two, maybe three, arms available tonight. “
With the loss, the Sweets are 1-3 in WCL play and 2-3 overall.
“Four games in, we’ve got guys coming in, a lot of bodies and a lot of depth still to arrive,” Biagi said. “A few more arms will come in the back end of this week. That is really when the truth comes out on what this team is going to be made of.
“Working full force, having options in the bullpen and when things aren’t going quite right for our starter, we have confidence down in the pen that we can take five, six or seven innings toward the back end of the game and take care of it with some depth in the bullpen,” he said.
The Sweets take on Kelowna tonight at 7:05 p.m., the second game of a three-game home series.
Kelowna 8, Walla Walla 5
Falcons 001 130 021 — 8 15 1
Sweets 000 122 000 — 5 7 1
Moriarty, Murphy (5), Lamont (6), Nuernberg (6) and Schuman. Flaa, Dove (6), Crippen (9) and Ferrante.
HR – Kel: Schuman.
Hits – Kel: Kamachi 3, Croft, Church 3, Schuman 3, Biro, Lane 2, Minteer 2; WW: Gonzales, Paulson, Mendenhall, Osborne, Nixon, Rapacz, Skrbec.