The Walla Walla Sweets climbed back into first place in the WCL North. Winners of all seven home games they’ve played this year, the Sweets swept aside the Victoria HarbourCats by taking both ends of a doubleheader on Friday night at Borleske Stadium.
The Sweets won the early game 2-1. They took the lead in the third inning.
RF Dylan Hirsch (Loyola Marymount) worked a one-out walk and scooted to second on an errant pickoff throw. After CF Danny Sinatro (Washington State) singled Hirsch over to third, an RBI groundout from SS Vinny Capra (Richmond) brought him home with the game’s first run.
However, Victoria answered back in the fourth inning. A leadoff walk to 2B Tucker Johnson (Baylor) put a runner on and a one-out double from 3B Bryce Bonner (Purdue) brought him in.
RHP Ryan Johnston (UC-Irvine) was summoned from the bullpen, though, and held the HarbourCats off the board for the remainder of the inning, preserving the tie.
The Sweets went ahead in the bottom half. 3B Nick Nyquist (Gonzaga) was hit by a pitch from RHP Luke Boyd (Baylor), stole second, and a double from 1B John Glenn (California Baptist) pushed him to third. Nyquist scored the decisive run on a passed ball from HarbourCats catcher Tanner Rempel (Colorado Mesa).
Johnston worked 2.1 innings of relief, earning the win (1-0). LHP Tim Josten (Cal State Fullerton) picked up his first save, slamming the door with a scoreless ninth inning. Boyd (1-1) was hit with the loss.
With the win, the Sweets (6-5) climbed past the HarbourCats (7-7) in the standings and looked to capitalize with a win in the second game.
After a 30-minute break, the two teams squared off in the nightcap.
Things looked bleak for the Sweets at first. RHP Jarrod Molnaa (Bellevue) was in hot water early on. He allowed back-to-back two-out doubles to 1B Po-Hao Huang (Taiwan) and LF Kevin Collard (San Diego) to open the scoring in the first.
The HarbourCats grew their lead to 4-0 in the second. A walk to Johnson, followed by a double from CF Ethan Lopez (Hawaii) plated the second run. 3B Jake Garella (St. Louis) worked a walk, as did DH Andrew Vaughn (California) and with two outs, the bases were loaded.
That’s when manager Frank Mutz went to the bullpen, summoning the lefty Dyaln Riddle (UC-Irvine) to make his season debut.
Riddle surrendered a single to Huang, the first batter he faced. Lopez and Garella scored, making it a 4-0 ballgame. However, Riddle quickly settled in and managed to hurl 3.1 innings of scoreless ball.
Riddle’s productivity allowed the Sweets to climb back into the game in the late innings. In the bottom of the fifth, the team cut the deficit in half. A leadoff walk to RF Joe Zimmer (Whitman), followed by a booming opposite-field double from C Ryan Shaw (Richmond) put runners at second and third with none out.
The Sweets scored them without the benefit of a hit. As the Victoria starter, LHP Jack Owen (Auburn) began to tire, the Sweets capitalized. Owen balked in Zimmer for the first run and a wild pitch scored Shaw for score number two.
LHP Isaac Esqueda (Southern California) made his WCL debut in the top of the sixth, keeping the HarbourCats off the board on the strength of a pair of Ks.
The ballgame was won in the sixth inning, which, to date, can easily be tabbed as the defining inning of the Sweets’ season.
Capra singled off of reliever RHP Taylor Prokopis (Colorado Mesa). A Nyquist double brought him in and trimmed the Victoria lead to one run. Then, the Sweets put the screws to the HarbourCats defense.
Sinatro bunted back to the mound and Prokopis, in a hurry to try and get the lead runner Nyquist at third, threw the ball away. Nick scored the tying run, still with nobody out.
The next batter, SS Kevin Jordan (Loyola Marymount) bunted again back to the mound. Again, Prokopis attempted to nab the lead runner at third. Again, he threw errantly. Sinatro slid in safely and scored when the following batter, Zimmer, lifted a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
The Sweets tacked on a big insurance run on an error from Victoria SS Cole Weiss (UNC-Wilmington), who allowed a ground ball from Shaw to trickle underneath his glove and into left field. Scoring was Jordan with the Sweets’ sixth run.
Esqueda polished Victoria off in the seventh. He did allow one run (leadoff walk to Huang and the pinch-runner Connor Whitney scored on a double play groundout from Johnson), but did enough to deliver the Sweets the game.
Esqueda (1-0) won in his Sweets debut. Prokopis took the loss (0-1).
The Sweets improved their record to 7-5 overall and a perfect 7-0 at home (6-0 in WCL play). Walla Walla now moves into a first place tie with Bellingham, as the teams have now completed four of their nine first-half series.
Tomorrow, the Port Angeles Lefties come to town for a single game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from Borleske Stadium.
LHP Scott Parker (1-1) will make his third start for Walla Walla. RHP NIck Bonniksen (Dixie State), who beat the Sweets last Saturday, will start for the Lefties.
by Ben Farber
Box Score Game 1
Box Score Game 2
Sweets Scoop Pregame -- Haydn King and Adam Kerner
Sweets Scoop Postgame -- Isaac Esqueda
Audio Highlights Game 1
Audio Highlights Game 2