Costly Errors Doom Pippins Comeback Effort
YAKIMA, Wash. – On a night when the Yakima Valley Pippins were looking to earn their first series sweep of the season, and were trying to earn their 100th win in franchise history, the offense certainly cooperated. The Pippins put a season high 14 hits on the board and drilled two home runs, but it was ultimately their defense that did them in, as they committed four costly errors in a 9-6 loss to the Bellingham Bells at Yakima County Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Pippins (3-3) got on the board in the 1st inning for the second consecutive night as after Steve Sordahl (St. Martin’s) reached on an error to begin the game, Dillon Plew (Washington State) drilled a two-run home run over the right field fence to give the Pippins a 2-0 lead.
The score stayed that way until the top of the 3rd, when the Bells pushed five runs across against Pippins starter, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa). Of the five runs, just two were earned, as a result of a crucial error from Pippins third baseman, Nick Plaia (Cal Baptist). The Bells (3-3) got the scoring started in the frame when Shane Hanon (Marshall) hit a grounder to Plaia with two runners on and one out that could have resulted in a double play, had Plaia been able to corral the two hop grounder, step on the bag, and throw to first. Instead, the ball bounced off his glove into left field, plating the first run of the game for the Bells. After an RBI groundout and a pair of RBI singles, the Bells had a 3-0 lead with two outs. Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) then mishandled a ground ball at shortstop that would have ended the inning, and instead, scored another Bellingham run. After the Bells plated another run in the 4th inning, they had a 6-2 lead.
It was in the bottom half of the inning that the Pippins offense received a much needed boost via another long ball. After Ellis singled with one out, Tyler Sandoval (Colorado Mesa) welcomed himself to Yakima with a two-run home run over the left-center field fence, cutting the Bellingham lead in half.
The Pippins bats continued to roll in the bottom of the 5th inning, as after Plew was hit by a pitch and Michael Wyatt (Columbia Basin) drew a walk, Gabe Taylor (Dixie State) doubled down the left field line to plate Plew and cut the deficit to one run. After Chris Dalto (Central Washington) hit a sacrifice fly to straight away center to score Wyatt, the Pippins had tied the game at six.
The Pippins had a chance to retake the lead in the bottom of the 6th inning with the bases loaded and just one out, but Taylor bounced into an inning ending double play, opening the door for Bellingham in the 7th inning. It was in the frame that the Bells retook command of the game off of Pippins reliever, Kyle Nicol (Cal State Northridge) as they plated three runs via a walk, a hit by pitch, another error on Plaia, and two RBI singles to take a 9-6 lead.
In the 8th, the Pippins threatened again, after leadoff singles from Conner McNally (Utah) and Plew. Rather than having two baserunners on with one out, however, McNally tried to go from first to third base on the play, and was thrown out at third by the Bells left-fielder, Austin Pinorini (Bellevue College). After Wyatt singled through the right side to make it second and third with two outs, Taylor one again grounded out to end the threat, this time to third base.
The Pippins rallied in the bottom of the 9th against Bells reliever Josh Zavisubin (Puget Sound) as after Dalto doubled down the left-field line to begin the frame, Sandoval walked on four pitches. Zavisubin settled down, however, and struckout Plaia before getting Sordahl to ground out to end the game and earn the save in his team’s 9-6 win.
The Hitting: The 14 hits were a season high for the Pippins, but they also left a season high 13 runners on base. Six Pippins recorded a multi-hit outing (McNally, Plew, Wyatt, Taylor, Ellis and Sandoval), with Plew and Wyatt each recording their team high third such game. With Ellis’ single in the 4th inning and Wyatt’s single in the 5th inning, each player has now hit safely in the Pippins first four games of the season. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Wyatt had been leading the West Coast League in batting average (.500-minimum 10 at bats) and was tied for the lead in hits (8).
The Pitching: Landis started and went six innings for the Pippins, allowing seven hits and six runs (only two earned). Landis only walked one batter but hit two. He also matched Josh Tedeschi (Utah) for a Pippins single game high of six strikeouts, while not factoring into the decision. Nicol allowed three runs in his relief appearance during the 7th inning and also hit two batters, one of which resulted in a run being scored with the bases loaded. Dylan Villalobos (Cal Poly) made his Pippins debut, throwing a scoreless frame in the 8th. Connor White (Columbia Basin) pitched his way out of some minor trouble in the 9th for a scoreless frame as well. Chad Gideon (Pacific Lutheran) started for Bellingham and lasted just four innings while allowing four runs (three earned) with two walks and five hits. Arman Sabouri (California), one of four relievers used by the Bells on the night, pitched a scoreless 6th inning where he worked around the bases loaded jam with one out to earn the win.
Game Notes: The Pippins scored in the 1st inning for the second consecutive night. Prior to Tuesday’s 9-5 win over Bellingham, in which they scored a franchise record-tying four runs in the first inning, the earliest the Pippins had scored a run had been the 4th inning. The four errors committed by the Pippins are a season high. They have now committed multiple errors in four of their first six contests. With the loss, the Pippins fall to 3-3 and are now 1.5 games behind the first place and currently idle Corvallis Knights in the loss column of the WCL South Division Standings. With the win, Bellingham moves back to 3-3 and into within a game of the first place Walla Walla Sweets in the WCL North.
What’s Next: Bellingham heads home to start a three game set with the Corvallis Knights on Thursday night. The Pippins have two off days before they take on their first non-league opponent, the Northwest Honkers, with first pitch set for 7:05 on Saturday. John Fuqua (Virginia Military Institute) is slated to make his second start for the Pippins. The Pippins will have another chance to earn their 100th West Coast League win starting on Sunday when they open up a three game series at Wenatchee in what will be their first road trip of the season.
ABOUT THE PIPPINS: The Yakima Valley Pippins compete in the West Coast League, one of the nation’s premier summer collegiate wood bat leagues. The Pippins play their home games at Yakima County Stadium (“The Orchard”) in Yakima, Washington. After winning 96 games during their first three seasons in the WCL, the Pippins set the mark as the winningest WCL expansion team after three years. Yakima County Stadium will play host to the 2017 West Coast League All-Star Game, along with an extensive 31-game home season for Year No. 4 of Pippins' Baseball in 2017. Read more online at PippinsBaseball.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube with #ThatWasAwesome.