The Sweets won their third straight game and pulled ahead of Bellingham in the standings on Saturday night.
Walla Walla built an early lead against one of the WCL’s toughest pitchers. And despite a prolific rally from the Bells, held on to win 5-4 at Joe Martin Field.
The Sweets got on the scoreboard immediately. The game’s first batter, LF Ryan Johnston (UC-Irvine) worked a leadoff walk against Bells starter RHP Holden Powell (UCLA), who entered play Saturday with a 4-0 record and a 1.30 ERA.
With Johnston aboard, Powell served up an RBI double to RF J.J. Hancock (Washington State). Two batters into the game, the Sweets grabbed a lead they would never relinquish.
Another run in the second – an RBI single from CF Danny Sinatro (Washington State) – staked Sweets starter LHP Tim Josten (Cal State Fullerton) to a multi-run lead.
Josten, who had yet to allow a run through his first 14 innings of WCL competition, did serve up a solo home run to RF Max Flower (California) in the bottom of the second. But it was the only run he would let up.
Josten dominated yet again. In five-plus innings, he allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four and walking just one.
The Sweets plated three more in the fourth. Johnston corked a two-run double to dead centerfield, scoring SS Vinny Capra (Richmond) who had walked and Sinatro who had beaten out a bunt single. The next batter, Hancock, brought Johnston in with a hard-hit ground ball up the middle that was mishandled by 2B Kody Matthews (Gonzaga).
When Josten departed in the sixth, the Sweets were leading 5-1.
But against the Sweets bullpen, Bellingham began to creep back into the game.
Two runs in the seventh – back-to-back home runs by Flower and LF Kyle Stowers (Stanford) brought the Bells to within 5-3.
And in the eighth inning, Stowers drew a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded to bring the Bells to within one run.
But LHP Isaac Esqueda (Southern California) struck out two straight to strand the bases loaded in the eighth. And in the ninth, he put two on with walks but induced a game-ending double play grounder from Matthews to slam the door.
The Sweets won, if just barely. They showed fortitude and toughness while keeping their composure in several high-pressure situations.
Josten (3-0) wins the game. Powell (4-1) suffers his first loss. Esqueda (1) became the eighth Sweet to record a save. Flower’s two home runs give him three on the year and Stower’s shot was his second.
The Sweets (14-9) now pull past Bellingham (13-10) in the standings.
Walla Walla still trails first-place Kelowna (16-9) by one game in the standings. Kelowna is currently in Yakima Valley battling the Pippins in a three-game set.
Tomorrow, the Sweets go for the sweep. The team sends RHP Darius Vines (Oxnard CC) to the mound for his second start of the summer. He will be opposed by Bellingham’s RHP Zach Petteway (UCLA).
First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. from Joe Martin Field in Bellingham.
by Ben Farber
Sweets Scoop -- John Glenn