Portland, Ore. – One play can change the entire complexion of a game. That was the case as Walla Walla won a low scoring game 2-1 over the Portland Pickles thanks to a bizarre pickoff play that scored the game-winning run for the Sweets.
The Pickles tallied their only run of the game in the bottom of the first inning off Sweets starter Haydn King.
Gio Diaz singled back up the middle with one out in the frame. Then with two outs, Jack Murphy doubled off the right field wall which allowed Diaz to score all the way from first to make it 1-0 early.
Pitching and defense was the name of the game for the remainder of Wednesday night, and the Sweets pitching staff rose to the challenge of limiting offense in the small dimensions of Walker Stadium.
King paced Walla Walla on the mound and was virtually untouchable at times. He finished his start going five strong innings while allowing just the one earned run and racked up an impressive 11 strikeouts.
He ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fifth but locked in when it mattered most. A single, a sacrifice bunt, a walk and a passed ball put runners on second and third with just one out in the inning.
With the capable duo of Zander Clarke and Jack Murphy due up, it looked as though the Pickles were set to take the lead. Instead, King bested both hitters by getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning which kept the game tied.
Brayde Hirai followed suit with a great showing out of the bullpen after taking over in the bottom of the sixth. He went two and two-thirds innings while not allowing a single hit.
The only baserunner Hirai allowed came on a one-out walk in the bottom of the eighth to Clarke. After a stolen base and a groundout, Clarke stood on third with two outs which ended Hirai’s outing.
Samuel Reed took over in a role that he has excelled in all season long, being the stopper in high-pressure situations. With Joey Cooper at the dish and a 2-2 count, Reed ran the high fastball right past the bat of Cooper for a swinging strikeout to end the inning with the score still tied at 1-1.
In the top of the ninth, the Sweets finally struck for the go-ahead run in the game in rather unconventional fashion. With two outs and the bases empty, Josh Prizina ripped a double up the left-field line to give Walla Walla a runner in scoring position.
Then on a 3-2 count, Vines took off running for third base. While going into his motion, Wyatt spun around to attempt a pickoff move to second base.
He ended up launching an awkward throw over the head of Diaz at short that got all the way out into centerfield. With Vines already in a full sprint, he rounded third base and glided home safely to score on a wild play which gave the Sweets the lead at 2-1.
Sean Sullivan then took over in the bottom of the ninth to try to shut the door. He worked a one-two-three inning to earn the save and seal the win for Walla Walla by a final score of 2-1.
After back-to-back close games to start off the series, it is safe to expect more of the same in the rubber match. The Sweets and Pickles square off for the series finale on Thursday night with first pitch slated for 7:05.