Walla Walla Edges Wenatchee, 3-2Posted: Updated:
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Walla Walla Sweets capped an impressive second-half turnaround with a 3-2 victory over the Wenatchee Applesox on Wednesday night at Borleske Stadium.
Stuck at 12-21 after a three-game sweep to Bellingham, the Sweets rallied to win six of their final seven series, going 14-7 over that stretch. The back-to-back wins over the Applesox to close the season provide the Sweets with momentum and optimism heading into the West Coast League playoffs against the East Division champs.
Two nights ago, Walla Walla had lost six-of-seven to Wenatchee a walk-off single sparked them last night and Tyler Billen's brilliant performance tonight lead them to another dramatic victory. Appearing in his final game of the summer, his school semester starts next Tuesday, Billen went 7.2 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits. The left-hander struck out five and carried a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning.
He worked around two walks in the second and left runners on the corners and then got three straight outs after allowing a leadoff single in the third. The Applesox touched him for another leadoff single in the fourth but a 6-4-3 double play erased that runner and Billen only allowed one runner to reach second over the next three innings. He set down six-straight thanks to back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh but hit trouble in the eighth.
Payden Cawley-Lamb started things with one out as he collected his third hit of the night and Adam Nelubowich singled with two outs to put the pressure on. Ryan Barnes followed with a two-run double into the right field corner and after a walk to Brock Gates the Sweets called on Jimmy Litchfield. The soft-throwing southpaw got Conner George to pop out to first to end the inning and then left runners on first and second with a strikeout of Cawley-Lamb and a flyout to center.
Walla Walla built a 3-0 lead behind clutch hitting in the early innings. Alex Stanford walked to start the game, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a fly out and scored as Andrew Mendenhall slapped a ground ball to the left side for an infield single. Austin Heaps and Elliot Stewart made it 2-0 with back-to-back doubles to start the second. Heaps' one-hopped the left field wall and Stewart drilled his to deep left-center. The Sweets capped their scoring in the fifth as Mendenhall laced a double to wall in left-center that scored Denver Chavez all the way from first.
A subplot on Wednesday was the race for the WCL batting title. Stanford entered the night with a .346 average, three points higher than Cawley-Lamb, but went 0-3 to finish at .340. Cawley-Lamb, on the other hand, went 3-5 and finished the season with a .350 average. He had three hits in each game of the three-game series. Mendenhall had three hits for the Sweets and the fifth inning double was his 14th of the summer, good enough for second in the league.
The teams will get Thursday off to recharge before facing off on Friday in game one of the East Division playoffs. The best-of-three series will begin with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch at Borleske Stadium on Friday.