Walla Walla Wins in 10th, 2-1 Over WenatcheePosted: Updated:
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- A casual observer would never have been able to tell that Tuesday's game meant nothing in terms of standings or playoff positioning to the Walla Walla Sweets and Wenatchee Applesox. What was on the line was momentum and the Sweets grabbed it as Chance Kopacz delivered a walk-off double down the left field line in the bottom of the tenth to lead the Sweets to a 2-1 victory at Borleske Stadium.
Set to face each other in the East Divsion playoffs on Friday, the Sweets and Applesox were set to use Tuesday and Wednesday as preparation; pitchers to get innings and hitters to get at-bats. What transpired was one of the most exciting games of the summer. Not only was there a walk-off double but Alex Stanford's bunt single in the fifth inning gave him 65 hits on the summer, establishing a new West Coast League record.
Led by Derek Peterson's best outing of the summer and shutdown relief, the Sweets finally broke a 1-1 tie in the tenth. Keeler Brynteson came on to pitch the tenth and two quick fly outs and had Andrew Mendenhall 1-2 but Mendenhall laced a double down the line in right to light the spark. Wenatchee then walked Zach Wentz intentionally for the second time on the night to face Kopacz. The Walla Walla CC product worked the count full and then crushed a one-hopper off the wall in left to score Mendenhall and send the Sweets into a frenzy between second and third. It was Kopacz's second walk-off hit this summer.
The game could have easily been decided in regulation though. Wenatchee had several chances to put the game away but Peterson always seemed to be one step ahead. After allowing a run in the first, Peterson persevered through several tough spots to go six innings. He got a double play ball in the second and then left runners on the corners in the third with back-to-back ground outs. In the fourth, the Applesox again put runners on the corners with one out but Peterson came back to strike out Erik Munzer and Breland Almadova to end the inning.
He continued to walk a tight rope in the fifth. Peterson walked Payden Cawley-Lamb to start the inning and then a wild pitch sent him all the way to third with no outs. Facing the heart of the Wenatchee lineup, Peterson got a ground out to first, pop out to first and a fly out to center to strand the runner at third. Then in the sixth he received some help from his defense. After the first two batters reached, DeGuire floated a soft liner into center that Kalani Brackenridge raced after and somehow caught. Brock Gates, the runner on second, thought it would drop and took two steps towards third and that allowed Brackenridge to spin and throw to second to double him off. Peterson finished the inning and his night by getting Almadova to ground out to third.
Walla Walla's bullpen did their job the rest of the night. Geoff Soja entered in the seventh and after allowing a leadoff double to Cawley-Lamb, proceded to leave him on third with a pop out and fly out. Eric Yardley took over in the eighth and, using a new three-quarters arm angle, had his best outing of the summer. The right-hander allowed only a walk in the eighth and in the ninth, with the winning run on third, he struck out Pat Valaika looking to end the inning. Simon Anderson pitched the tenth and he also left a runner on third, striking out DeGuire and getting Munzer to fly to center.
Even the Sweets had chances to win the game. A two-out single by Brackenridge started them in the fifth and Stanford's historic bunt single put runners on the corners but Gottschling's liner was snagged by Valaika at short. Their best chance came in the eighth as Stanford led off with a double and Gottschling followed with a single. Wenatchee brought on ace Owen Jones and the right-hander got a pop out, intentionally walked Wentz and then struck out Kopacz and Austin Heaps to leave the bases loaded.
The Sweets tied the game in the fourth inning thanks to a fortuitous play on the basepaths. Scott Gottschling was the runner on first and was picked off. He stayed in the rundown and as the ball was flipped to Valaika at second, he dove under the tag and was called safe. Wenatchee argued the call to no avail and two pitches later Wentz ripped an RBI double to right-center.
Stanford and Wentz each had two hits for the Sweets and Anderson picked up his second win of the summer. Cawley-Lamb had three hits to lead Wenatchee, three others had two and Brynteson, the last of seven pitchers, took the loss. Heading into the final game of the summer, Stanford and Cawley-Lamb are neck-and-neck in the batting title race. Stanford is hitting .346 and Cawley-Lamb is at .343.
Walla Walla and Wenatchee will complete their regualr seasons with game three on Wednesday night at Borleske Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on fan appreciation night and Tyler Billen will get the ball on the mound. Fans will be rewarded with a postgame fireworks display.