By Walla Walla Sweets
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Kris Paulino drove home Beau Fraser with a single to right field in the bottom of the ninth to give the Sweets a 5-4 walk-off victory over Wenatchee on Wednesday night at Borleske Stadium.
It is the second consecutive win for the Sweets (17-24) and their third over the Applesox (27-13) this summer. The Sweets also kept pace with Bellingham in the race for second place, remaining 8.5 games out with 13 to go.
With the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Fraser got the rally going with a one-out double into the right-center field gap. The Applesox then intentionally walked Ryan Cooper and Tony Bryant picked up a strikeout for the second out. Paulino then stepped in and didn't wait long, ripping the first pitch into right field to score Fraser from second and give the Sweets the victory.
The game-winning hit capped an outstanding performance from Paulino at the dish. Hitting leadoff, Paulino had four hits, scored three runs and finished a home run shy of the cycle. Moments after the Applesox took the lead in the top of the eighth, Paulino led off the bottom of the eighth with a towering drive to right-center that hit off the base of wall for a triple. Alex Bonczyk followed with a fly to right and Paulino tagged and scored just ahead of the tag to tie the game.
Thanks to Paulino's spark, the Sweets got off to a great start, scoring three runs in the first three innings. Paulino started the game with a booming double to right-center and scored on a Shane Zeile ground out to put the Sweets up 1-0. He then followed a Kalani Brackenridge single with a single of his own to start the third. Brackenridge would score on a Brett Jacobs single and Paulino came home on a Zeile fielder's choice to make it 3-1.
Wenatchee kept fighting, however, and got some help from the Sweets defense. Taylor Sparks was hit by a pitch to start the second and then advanced all the way to third as the throw to second on his stolen base attempt went into the outfield. He scored a batter later on another infield error to tie the game at 1-1.
In the fourth, three consecutive singles scored a run to make it 3-2 and chased Sweets starter Tyler Billen. Zach Brandon came on and was able to allow just one more run to cross in the inning; that also coming on an infield error as Stephen Ventimilia slapped a ground ball to the left side that was misplayed.
Brandon would go on to get the Sweets into the eighth inning, putting together one of his best outings of the summer. He got a ground ball to short to leave runners on second and third in the fifth and then received an excellent defensive play from Jacobs to escape the sixth. With runners on the corners and one out, Ty Moore hit a hard liner down the first base line but Jacobs reacted well and snared the liner and stepped on the bag to double off the runner and end the inning.
The Applesox finally got to Brandon in the eighth inning, taking their first lead of the night. Jeff Stephens was hit by a pitch with one out and then stole second before Brandon got a strikeout. Walla Walla then summoned Doug Ashby to face Ventimilia and Stephens stole third and then scored the lead run as Ventimilia slapped a single down the third base line.
Walla Walla immediately responded in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and Ben Ruff notched a scoreless ninth to set up the heroics. Ruff earned the win, improving to 2-2 on the year. Billen allowed three runs on three hits in three innings and Brandon allowed one run on six hits over 4.2 innings. Both Paulino and Fraser have six hits in their last two games.
The Sweets and Applesox continue their four-game series on Thursday night at Borleske Stadium. Arturo Reyes will start for the Sweets.