An improbable rally of five runs in the bottom of the ninth pushed the Kelowna Falcons past the Sweets 8-7 at Elks Stadium on Tuesday night.
The winning hit was a two-run single up the first base line by SS Taylor Wright (Maryland). The ball deflected off a divot near the first base bag, bouncing over the head of Sweets 1B John Glenn (Cal Baptist) and skating down the right field line.
With one unlucky stroke of the bat, the Sweets were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
The team has dropped four in a row.
The game looked promising from the outset, however. Facing All-Star RHP Cal Hehnke (Nebraska-Omaha), the Sweets rallied for three runs in the first inning. They utilized four consecutive base hits – from SS Vinny Capra (Richmond), RF J.J. Hancock (Washington State), LF Jake Suddleson (Harvard), and Glenn – plus a sac fly from 3B Cameron Deere (Brown) to grab a 3-0 lead.
Staked to the early advantage, Sweets starter LHP Haydn King (San Francisco) cruised through five muscular innings. King scattered three hits, allowing just one run, while walking one and striking out four.
In the fifth, Walla Walla scored again to grow their lead to 4-1. CF Ryan Johnston (UC-Irvine) doubled to lead off and came around to score on an RBI base hit from Hancock.
But the Sweets went to the bullpen in the sixth. And immediately, Kelowna began to piece together their offense.
Two runs in the sixth – an RBI single by C Matthew Scheffler (Pierce College) and a series of wild pitches – brought Kelowna to within 4-3.
But RHP Anthony Villegas (Biola U) entered and stymied the opposition for three-plus innings. Until the ninth, only two runners reached base against Villegas, who leaned on a fastball/curveball combo to work quick outs.
Meanwhile, the Sweets kept padding their lead. They scored one in the eighth on a suicide squeeze from Johnston.
And in the ninth, Walla Walla plated two thanks to a two-run double from C Ryan Shaw (Richmond).
Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Sweets led 7-3.
With one out, 1B Alex McGarry (Oregon State) homered deep to right. But Villegas proceeded to strike out DH Josh Glenn (Mt. Hood CC). All the Sweets needed was the final out.
But it never came. Back-to-back singles from RF Brody Wittman (Chemeketa CC) and LF Cade Peters (UC-Riverside) put two on and a walk to 2B J.T. Williams (UC-San Diego) loaded the bases.
The Falcons then scored one on a wild pitch. And a two-run single from pinch-hitter Kade Hall (Montana State-Billings) brought Kelowna to within 7-6.
Villegas walked CF Trent Tinglestad (Everett CC) to load the bases before Wright’s ball ended the game and sent the Sweets to a second straight series loss.
In defeat, Walla Walla drops to 8-15 (23-27 overall). Playoff-bound Kelowna improves to 9-14 (26-24 overall), and passes the Sweets in the second half standings.
RHP David Tongue (Otero JC) picked up the win (1-0), hurling three innings in his WCL debut. Villegas (0-1) was hit with the loss. McGarry’s home run (2) was his second.
The Sweets and Falcons finish the first leg of their six-game megaseries Wednesday night in Kelowna. RHP Chris Lincoln (UC-Santa Barbara) will oppose RHP Tanner Van Lith (Big Bend CC), who will be making his WCL pitching debut.
Afterward, the two teams resume play against one another with three games at Borleske Stadium this weekend.
First pitch Wednesday will be 6:35 p.m. All three games in Walla Walla will begin at 7:05 p.m., including Sunday.
by Ben Farber
Audio Highlights -- Wright's Hit
Sweets Scoop -- Haydn King