By Walla Walla Sweets
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Nick Paxton drove in both Cowlitz runs and a trio of Black Bears pitchers made it stand in a 2-1 victory over the Sweets on Tuesday night at Borleske Stadium.
The Black Bears (16-19) have now won three-straight games and moved with four games of West-leading Corvallis. The Sweets (14-21) have now lost five-straight and fall eight games behind Bellingham for the final playoff spot in the East.
Like the previous three games in this series, the pitchers dominated. Walla Walla's Hunter Virant and Cowlitz's Koby Gauna went head-to-head for the first six innings of the game, with Gauna coming out on the winning side. Gauna allowed one run on five hits over seven innings, while Virant allowed two runs on just two hits over six innings in suffering his first loss. He struck out six and walked two.
Cowlitz jumped on the board in the second inning without the benefit of a hit. Drew Luther walked with one out, took second on a balk, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Paxton sac fly to left.
Walla Walla would rally in the third to tie the game. Kalani Brackenridge started the inning with a double to right-center, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He moved to third on an Alex Bonczyk infield single and scored as Bonczyk beat the throw to second base on what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. That would be it offensively, however, for the Sweets.
The Black Bears quickly regained the lead in the top of the fourth and let their pitchers do the rest. Matt Ozanne doubled to start the inning, went to third on a sac bunt and scored as Paxton singled up the middle.
After that, the combination of Gauna, Cody Rogina and Leko Gelusha did the rest. Rogina retired the Sweets in order in the eighth and got the first out of the ninth before handing off to Gelusha. The right-hander struck out the final two batters to end the game.
Virant has now allowed two runs or less in all four of his starts and has allowed just 10 hits in 26 innings. Doug Ashby worked a scoreless seventh, striking out Brian Frattali with runners on second and third to end the inning. Garrett Tygerson then pitched the final two innings, working out of a jam in the eighth. With runners on the second and third and one out, Tygerson got a ground ball to second that Brackenridge charged, fielded and threw home in time to get the runner from third. A fly to center would finish the inning.