It happened again.
For the second time in two nights, the Kelowna Falcons walked off on the Sweets. But this time, instead of a five-run rally, it was after steady pressure applied during four frames of bonus baseball.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, DH Kade Hall (MSU-Billings) punched the winning hit through the shortstop hole and down the left field line. And even though Sweets pitching had adeptly walked the tightest of ropes – stranding nine baserunners in the game’s final four innings – the Falcons’ prevailed with persistence.
After nearly four and a half hours of gameplay, Kelowna beat the Sweets 6-5 at Elks Stadium as Wednesday night threatened to become Thursday morning.
It was the Walla Walla's fifth straight loss, matching a season-high.
As they have so often on this 1-5 road trip, the Sweets scored first. CF Ryan Johnston (UC-Irvine) ripped a leadoff home run down the left field line. The blast came off of Falcons starter RHP Tanner Van Lith (Big Bend CC), who was making his WCL pitching debut.
But Kelowna answered with a first inning run of their own off Sweets starter RHP Chris Lincoln (UC-Santa Barbara). 2B J.T. WIlliams (UC-San Diego) was plunked, moved to scoring position on a wild pitch, and scored on an RBI base hit from RF Trent Tinglestad (Everett CC).
Still, a three-run, two-out rally in the second put the Sweets back in front. RBI singles from SS Jacob Blas (Arizona) and from Johnston paired with a run-scoring double off the bat of C Ryan Shaw (Richmond). Chasing Van Lith from the ballgame, the Sweets grabbed a 4-1 advantage.
The Sweets would finish their scoring with a single run in the seventh inning. Shaw walked, moved to third on a fielding error, and scored on a suicide squeeze play from 2B Vinny Capra (Richmond).
Meanwhile, the Falcons were putting together a rally that was slow but extraordinarily steady. Scoring single runs in alternating innings, Kelowna capitalized on odd-numbered frames, scoring in the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth innings to tie the game and send it to extras.
In the ninth, an RBI single to left field by 3B Cole Mueller (UC-Santa Barbara) scored Williams to even the score. And Kelowna would have ended things right then and there if not for a dynamite throw from LF Jake Suddleson (Harvard).
When SS Taylor Wright (Maryland), who struck Tuesday’s game-winning blow, tried to score from second on Mueller’s hit, Suddleson bulleted a throw from medium-depth left field on a line to Shaw, who squeezed it and tagged Wright out at home plate. Suddleson’s throw saved the game, at least temporarily, and send the Sweets into their sixth extra-inning contest of the summer.
In extras, Johnston and RHP Cameron Deere (Brown) danced expertly into and out of trouble, teaming up for 3.2 scoreless innings despite allowing a steady stream of baserunners.
But in the 13th, with the Sweets entirely out of pitching, the team summoned RHP Ripken Reyes (California), a junior infielder who had not pitched since high school.
It took just a handful of pitches for Kelowna to end the game. Reyes walked LF Cade Peters (UC-Riverside) to lead off and C Matthew Scheffler (Pierce College) sacrificed him to second. Then, two pitches into his at-bat, Hall put the winning hit into left field.
The Sweets were held again at bay by RHP Ryan Smith (Sacramento State), who, after hurling five scoreless in Monday’s series opener, bounced back for 3.1 more shutout innings late in the game.
On the flip side, RHP Justin Dolezal (Western Oregon), pitching for the first time in three weeks, held the Falcons to just one run over four innings of long relief in back of Lincoln.
But the Sweets were shut out over the final six innings.
RHP Anthony Garcia (Lower Columbia CC) recorded the win (2-4). Reyes (0-1) took the loss. Johnston’s home run (2) was his second.
The Sweets fall to 8-16 (23-28 overall). The postseason-bound Falcons improve to 10-14 (27-24 overall).
After an off-day on Thursday, the Sweets and Falcons will square off once again with a three-game weekend set at Borleske Stadium. It will be the Sweets’ final series of 2017. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m.
LHP Dylan Riddle (UC-Irvine), LHP Isaac Esqueda (Southern California), and RHP Matt Amrhein (Cal Baptist) are scheduled to start the three games.
by Ben Farber
Audio Highlights -- Johnston HR