No Walla Walla Sweets team had ever started a season 4-0, 5-0, or 6-0 during the first nine years of the franchise.
The latter part of that changed Sunday night at Borleske Stadium when the 2019 edition of the Sweets completed their second consecutive three-game sweep of a West Coast League opponent.
Walla Walla opened its season last week by brooming the three-time defending WCL champion Corvallis Knights.
The Sweets followed that achievement with three straight wins over the Bend Elks – the last of which was a wild 16-11 triumph on Sunday night.
The final game of the weekend series did not start in promising fashion for the home nine. Bend used a Walla Walla error to plate two unearned runs in the first inning. RBI singles by Nelson Padilla and Justin Parsons produced the early two-run cushion.
Walla Walla roared back with five runs in its half of the first. Patrick Caulfield led off with a walk, stole his league-leading seventh base, and scored on a one-out double by Justin Folz. David Le Bioda was hit by a pitch and Parker Price – who ended the night with three hits after managing just two in the previous five games – brought both runners in with a double that grazed the top of the glove of Elks’ left fielder Jake Jarvis. Brandon Wagstaff sent Price home with a double down the left-field line and scored on a Tristan King single. The score following the first inning was 5-2.
“It felt awesome,” Price said. “It’s a big weight off my shoulders. I was able to find some holes. We got a win and that’s a double bonus.”
Cesar Lopez increased the Sweets lead to 6-2 with a lead-off home run to right field on a 1-1 offering from Bend starter Kyle Wade.
“I was looking for a fastball and got a slider,” Lopez said. “I got a good swing on it. It felt good. It was a good day at the plate.”
Bend got itself back into contention in an effort to salvage the final game of the series on a two-out, two-run double to left off the bat of Chase Fernlund and added another run in the fourth on a Zach Needham two-bagger. After the rally, the score sat at 6-5.
The Sweets scored four times in the fifth inning. Folz led off with a single and moved to second one out later on a Price hit. Following a double steal, two of five Walla Walla had in the game, Wagstaff delivered a two-RBI double to left that brought the score to 8-5. Wagstaff scored on a single to center by Carson Green – who stole second and third, then raced across home plate on a King grounder to short. Following the action in the fifth, the score would sit at 10-5.
Nico Burgarello led off the Elks’ sixth with a walk. One out later, Bradley Morgan was hit by a pitch. Both scored on a two-out double by Jorge Perez. The score after the top of the sixth was now 10-7.
Walla Walla scored twice in its half of inning six. Lopez singled, Folz walked and, after a Le Bioda grounder to first advanced the runners, Price popped a double to right to give the Sweets a 12-7 advantage. He was thrown out attempting to stretch the hit to a triple.
The stage was set for wild eighth inning. Burgarello led off the top half by reaching on an error and moving to second on a Padilla walk. A Needham fielder’s choice loaded the bases one out later and Perez singled to make it 12-8. Padilla scored on a Parsons’ grounder. Deron Johnson doubled in two to bring the Elks within one, 12-11. Fernlund followed with a single, but Johnson was thrown out trying to score the tying run on a one-hop throw from left fielder Mason Kokodynski.
“I didn’t get a lot of juice on it,” Kokodynski said. “I just wanted to be quick and accurate. Folz (at third base) said he was letting it go no matter what.”
Pinch-hitter Brock Ephan led off the home half of the eighth with a booming double to the deepest part of the ballpark (center field) and moved to third on a Caulfield knock. Lopez scored Ephan with a single, and Folz provided some pre-Fourth of July fireworks with a home run to right to bring the score to 16-11 and a home run that would finally conclude the scoring for the night.
Reliever Reid Sebby retired the Elks in order in the ninth. Two of the outs recorded were done so by strikeout.
The Sweets now sit 2 games in front of the upstart Ridgefield Raptors in the early South Division. The expansion team swept the Kelowna Falcons to move to 4-2 on the season.
The Sweets host the Highline Bears for a two-game, non-league set beginning Tuesday. Game times both Tuesday and Wednesday is 6:35 PM.