Three-run eighth rallies Sweets past KelownaPosted: Updated:
Walla Walla-- It has been a season of almosts for the Walla Walla Sweets. On Saturday, they finally got some breaks, scoring three runs in the eighth inning to erase a 3-1 deficit and defeat the Kelowna Falcons at Borleske Stadium.
Given another opportunity to catch Bellingham, the Sweets finally did as Andrew Mendenhall capped the rally with a booming two-run double off the wall in left field that gave the Sweets their only lead of the game. The rally started as Kevin Hawk's ground ball to third was bobbled and Kalani Brackenridge's ground ball to third bounced off the glove of a diving Andrew Firth. Alex Stanford moved both runners up with a bunt and it appeared the rally would be haulted as Scott Gottschling skied one to the right side. In what had become a twilight universe, the ball dropped between all three, scoring one and giving Mendenhall a crack at it. Facing relief pitcher Ryan Paterson, Mendenhall jumped all over a 1-0 pitch and hit to deep left to score both runners.
For seven innings, though, it looked like the Sweets would remain a game behind. Kelowna starter Brandon Marris came to the ballpark ready and dealt. The right-hander allowed just two baserunners over the first four innings and just two hits over the first seven innings. He hit a batter, gave up a single to Hawk and Kalani Brackenridge followed with a sac fly to score the first Sweets run. After that he was brilliant. Marris struck out the side in the sixth, got a 1-2-3 seventh and it appeared the Falcons were destined to thrwart the Sweets efforts.
Walla Walla got their own strong outing from Tim Culligan. The right-hander set down the first ten Falcons before giving up a single in the fourth but then hit a wall in the fifth. After recording the first out, Kelowna collected three straight hits to score a run and then after a walk loaded the bases, an infield single and fielder's choice scored two more.
Culligan shook off the tough inning and pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and then handed the ball to his bullpen. Tyler Billen worked around a leadoff single by picking off the runner and Derek Peterson got out of a first and second jam in the eighth with a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. Simon Anderson allowed a one-out walk but then struck out the final two batters to end the game and earn his second save.
The eighth inning comeback marked the third time the Sweets had rallied in the eighth inning or later against Kelowna this summer. They tied the score at 7-7 with a ninth inning single on June 27 and came back from 1-0 down to tie the game and take the lead the very next night. Bellingham dropped their sixth-straight game tonight and if they lose tomorrow and the Sweets are victorious, Walla Walla will have sole possession of second place.
Marris struck out nine but was saddled with the loss and Victor Razor-Thompson had two hits. Peterson picked up his third win of the summer and has not allowed a hit over his last five innings.
Game two of the series is Sunday night at 6:05 p.m. and the Sweets will send Brett Watson to the mound. The Sweets will honor all their host families in a pregame ceremony.