Sweets take pitcher's duel over Bears, 3-2 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Sweets take pitcher's duel over Bears, 3-2

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By Walla Walla Sweets

LONGVIEW, Wash. – Hunter Virant faced the minimum over the first seven innings and limited Cowlitz to just two runs over eight innings as the Sweets held on for a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night at Story Field.

Beginning a crucial six-game road trip, the Sweets (13-16) scratched across three late runs to begin its trip on a positive note against the Black Bears (12-17).

Tuesday night was a pitcher's duel between Virant and Cowlitz starter Cody Rogina. Both faced the minimum over the first three innings and both tossed five scoreless frames to start the contest. Rogina lasted 6.1 innings, allowing three runs on just two hits. Virant went eight innings, allowing two runs on just two hits.

Both left-handers were on point from the beginning. A second-inning single was the only blemish to Rogina over the first three innings and Virant picked off two baserunners in the first three frames to face the minimum. The fourth inning is where the starters parted ways.
After picking off Cody Childs after he reached with a bloop single to start the third, Virant was unhittable over the next five innings. He got a pair of ground balls and strikeout in the fourth, snared a line drive comebacker in a 1-2-3 fifth and set down the side in order in each of the sixth and seventh innings. In all, Virant set down 14-straight from the third through the seventh and was at 73 pitches when he started the eighth inning.

Meanwhile, the Sweets hitters were chipping away at Rogina. They left a runner on second in the fourth, went quietly in the fifth but finally got to Rogina in the sixth. Kalani Brackenridge was hit by a pitch and Ryan Cooper walked to start the inning. Alex Bonczyk moved both over with a bunt and Kris Paulino was hit to load the bases with one out. Brett Jacobs followed with a deep fly ball to left to make it 1-0.

The Sweets kept the momentum going in the seventh, plating two more runs. A Marc Garza walk and consecutive singles from Jarrod Turner and Brackenridge loaded the bases with one out and Cooper's hard grounder to first was misplayed, allowing the Sweets to take a 2-0 lead. Bonczyk plated the second run of the inning by beating out a possible inning-ending double play.

It appeared it would all the Sweets would need as Virant was cruising through the Black Bears lineup. In the eighth, however, Virant hit somewhat of a road block. He walked Connor Armijo to start the inning and then hung a pitch to Matt Ozanne that landed behind the left-center field fence to make it 3-2. Prior to the at-bat, Ozanne had been robbed twice, once by diving Brackenridge and once on a comebacker to Virant. The Black Bears continued to push the envelope, as a walk and a hit by pitch put the tying and lead runs on base with one out. The Sweets left Virant in to face Austin Wobrock and Virant induced a line drive to third that Shane Zeile caught and then fired to second to double-off the runner and end the inning.

Looking to put the finishing touches on Virant's dominant performance, Ben Ruff came on to toss a perfect ninth to pick up his second save of the summer. He induced two ground balls to second and a fly to center to end the game.

Offensively, Zeile was the only player on either team to collect multiple hits, singling in the second and picking up his fourth double of the season in the eighth.

The Sweets and Black Bears continue their three-game series on Wednesday at Story Field. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m.