WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Klamath Falls erupted for eight runs in the seventh inning and defeated the Sweets 12-6 on Saturday night at Borleske Stadium.
The win is the 11-straight for the Gems (20-19) and moves them into second place in the West Division standings. The Sweets (15-24) have lost eight-of-nine and are nine games behind Bellingham for second place in the East.
The Sweets were playing some of their best baseball in the last two weeks but everything changed in the seventh. Starter Tyler Roberts lost A.J. Kennedy on a pay-off pitch to start the inning and then everything went the Gems way. Hunter Virant was summoned but threw away a sac bunt, hit the next batter to load the bases and issued back-to-back bases loaded walks to make it 6-5. Ben Ruff then came on and was greeted by a bases-clearing triple from Josh Wong to put Klamath Falls up 8-6. The Gems would tack on three more runs in the inning, sending eight men to the plate and scoring eight runs.
Walla Walla mixed strong pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting to build a 6-3 lead. After Roberts tossed a scoreless first, Alex Bonczyk and Kris Paulino started the game with consecutive singles and Spencer O'Neil would eventually score both with a hard single to center. It was the 27th and 28th RBI of the year for O'Neil, a team record.
Klamath Falls would chip away, scoring three runs over the next three innings to take a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth but the Sweets rallied. O'Neil, Nick Vilter and J.J. Robinson hit three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases and Kalani Brackenridge was hit by a pitch to tie the game at 3-3. Ryan Cooper then followed with a fly ball to right that was misplayed by the right fielder to allow another run to score. The Sweets added a third run as Paulino worked a two-out, bases-loaded walk.
Walla Walla then added to its lead in the very next inning thanks to Shane Zeile. Leading off the inning, Zeile hit a solo home run that hit the Inland Cellular sign above Borleske Blue and just inside the fair pole. It would be the last run the Sweets would score.
The Sweets defense also played a strong game, helping Roberts through six innings. Roberts helped himself in the fifth, turning an Austin Byler comebacker into a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play. Then, in the sixth, the Sweets executed a perfect relay to throw out Kevin Davidson at the plate. Conner George doubled off the wall in left and Cooper relayed to Vilter, who relayed to Robinson at the plate just in time to get Davidson sliding in.
O'Neil finished the game with three hits and two RBI. Bonczyk and Paulino each had two hits and Zeile's fourth home run of the season extended his hitting streak to seven games.
The Sweets and Gems finish their series on Sunday night with a 5:05 p.m. first pitch. Joe Arlt will start for the Sweets.