WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla Sweets pitcher Spencer Hobson looked right at home Wednesday night.
The lefty, who also pitches for Whitman College, tossed seven innings in his West Coast League debut in the Sweets’ 6-2 win over the Kelowna Falcons.
With the victory, Walla Walla (2-3) evened the series at a game apiece with the decisive third game slated for 7:05 p.m. tonight.
“It’s probably the best game the guy has thrown all year,” Sweets manager J.C. Biagi said. “You figure the competition sitting in the other dugout, that’s a heck of a deal for the kid. Hopefully, we can kind of build off that and continue to run him out there.”
Hobson’s gem wasn’t without some drama to begin the game, though.
Kelowna (3-2) leadoff hitter Trey Kamachi opened the game with a two-strike single and swiped second on a fielding error in right field. After Kamachi stole third, he came home on a Scotland Church one-bagger to left field.
Undeterred by the early score, Hobson came back to get two of the next three batters and end the inning with just one unearned tally.
“The first inning (was) a little bit of a debacle,” Biagi said. “We had that 0-2 hit to lead the game off — never a good thing in any situation — and of course that run has to score. Once he kind of settled in and took command off his changeup and located his fastball a little better, he was good. He was slick. It was a great night for that kid.”
The Falcons’ 1-0 lead was their last of the game, as the Sweets claimed the lead in the bottom of the first.
After a leadoff walk to Jared Gonzales and a groundout, center fielder Andrew Mendenhall launched a ball deep into the gap between center and right field. The deep dimensions of Borleske Stadium may have kept in play, but Mendenhall’s triple was more than enough to score Gonzales from first.
Following another walk, the Sweets got some help from the Kelowna’s starting pitcher Jeremy Alderman. With runners on first and third, Walla Walla’s Jordan Frabasilio hit a soft tapper back to the mound. Alderman easily scooped the ball and turned to second in hopes of getting an inning-ending double play, but his errant throw went into center field as Mendenhall came into score.
The next batter up, J.J. Robinson, brought in Parker Osborne with a shot past the second baseman as the Sweets took a 3-1 lead. The offense wasn’t finished, however, as an Alderman wild pitch tacked on another and made it 4-1, Sweets.
“You get a little help here and there and fortunately sometimes that happens,” Biagi said of the Falcons’ three total errors. “You take what they give you.”
With a three-run lead, Hobson settled in and retired the next seven batters he faced. He got some help in the field, as Mike Paulson, the first baseman, punctuated the second inning with a diving catch in foul territory for the third out.
In the fourth, Hobson surrendered his only earned run — a one-out solo home run to Kelowna’s Nick Minteer. After retiring the next batter, the Sweets ended the inning with another nifty defensive play — this one courtesy of shortstop John Skrbec. Skrbec ranged to his left and fired across the diamond to nail Kelowna’s Colton Waltner and end the inning.
“That’s something you sometimes take for granted,” Biagi said of his team’s stellar defense. “Tonight was clean and hopefully (we get) some more of that.”
Hobson finished the next three innings by setting down nine of the 10 batters he faced.
For the night, Hobson went seven innings, allowing just the one earned run on four hits. He struck out two and walked two.
“From the first inning on I felt like he took command of himself, which is most important,” Biagi said. “If you can take command of yourself, then the rest of it is sort of easy. Cooper Hummel did an excellent job behind the plate tonight. He kept talking to him, kept working with him and I think it was a great pairing for the evening.”
The Sweets tacked on two more in the bottom of the seventh, as Osborne came around to score on a bloop single by Skrbec and Robinson came home on an error.
Reliever Cody Carroll pitched two scoreless innings to preserve the win and help the Sweets even the series. With the decivise third game scheduled for 7:05 p.m., pitcher Conner O’Neil gets the chance to help the Sweets get back to .500 and score their first series win.
“We play these three-game series, but tomorrow is a one-game deal,” Biagi said. “That’s how we play it every night.”
Sweets 6, Falcons 2
Kelowna 100 100 000 — 2 5 3
WW 400 000 20X — 6 9 1
Alderman, Gould (6), Sanders (7), Clark (8) and Waltner. Hobson, Carroll (8) and Hummel.
HR — Kel: Minteer.
Hits — Kel: Kamachi, Church (2), Minteer, Biro. WW: Gonzales, Mendenhall, Frabasilio (2), Robinson (2), Skrbec, Hummel, Littlefield.