Walla Walla Slips By Cowlitz, 5-4Posted: Updated:
LONGVIEW, Was. -- Sunday night will be remembered as one of the most important and greatest games in Walla Walla Sweets history. With a playoff berth on the line, the Sweets rallied from 4-2 down to tie the game in the ninth and Alex Stanford's home run in the top of the tenth gave them the only lead they would need in a 5-4 victory over the Cowlitz Black Bears at Story Field.
The comeback victory, the fifth this summer when the Sweets have trailed after seven, coupled with Bellingham's comeback victory over Wenatchee lowers the Sweets magic number to one but does not clinch a playoff spot. Walla Walla will need to either win one game against Wenatchee or have the Bells lose one to Kelowna.
On Sunday, the Sweets played catch-up all night long and finally caught the Black Bears in the ninth inning. Andrew Mendenhall and Zach Wentz singled to put runners on the corners with two outs and Scott Gottschling ripped a 1-2 curveball right back up the middle to tie the game at 4-4. Jimmy Litchfield got Cowlitz 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth and the Sweets went to work in the tenth.
James Campbell worked a leadoff walk but Cowlitz reliever Richi Sandoval picked him off for the first out and struck out the next batter for the second out. That brought Stanford to the plate and the Gonzaga product unloaded on a 2-0 fastball and drove in well over the wall in right-center to give Walla Walla their only lead of the night. Simon Anderson came on in the bottom of the tenth and picked up his fifth save as he struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning.
The long ball not only helped the Sweets win the game, but it helped them get back into it. Trailing 2-0 in the fourth, Chance Kopacz crushed his first home run of the summer into the bullpen in left-center to make it 2-1. The Black Bears battled back to make it 3-1 but Elliot Stewart turned on an inside pitch to start the sixth and sent it soaring over the party deck down the left field line to make it 3-2. Cowlitz again responded with a single run in the sixth but the Sweets came right back in the seventh.
Stanford started the inning with a single to right and stole second with one out, his seventh-straight game with a stolen base. Facing Cowlitz reliever Andrew Lines, Mendenhall stroked a single to left to make it 4-3. That set up Gottschling's and Stanford's heroics in the ninth and tenth.
It would not have got that far if not for the pitching of Litchfield. The lefty entered the game in the fifth inning with a run already across and the bases loaded with one out. He promptly induced a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play and went on to throw 4.2 innings of one-run relief and earned his third win of the summer. Facing a bases loaded, one-out situation in the seventh, Litchfield allowed just a sac fly, escaping further damage thanks to a running catch from Gottschling in left.
Sweets starter Kyle Anderson lasted just 4.1 innings but was the victim of several soft hits and two Sweets defensive errors. He gave up two runs in the second and a third run in the fifth. Walla Walla collected 14 hits, four from Mendenhall. Stanford had three hits and Kopacz and Stewart each had two for the Sweets. The bottom three of the Black Bears order, Mitchel Walding, Kirk Cunningham and Bailey Graham combined for eight hits and three runs.
Walla Walla wraps up their regular season with a three-game series against Wenatchee at Borleske Stadium. First pitch tomorrow is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and Jacob Overbay will get the ball.