The Sweets ended the nominal first half on a high note, slugging their way to a 13-7 victory over Bend on Sunday at Borleske Stadium.
Although it was a bit less action-packed than Saturday’s 12-inning marathon, Sunday’s game had the Sweets score 13 runs on 10 hits – none bigger than CF Ryan Johnston’s (UC-Irvine) two-run dinger in the fourth. Nine different Sweets hit safely.
LHP Isaac Esqueda (Southern California) was dynamite, hurling five innings and allowing just two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in his first start of the summer.
For the second straight night, the Elks scored in the first inning. Two runs – an RBI double from CF Matt Kroon (Oklahoma State) and an RBI single from 3B Charlie Maxwell (Northwestern) – put Bend ahead early.
But again, improbably, the Sweets rallied for four runs in the bottom of the first. Working against the lanky right-hander Jason Acuna (Oregon), Walla Walla utilized a bases-clearing triple from 1B John Glenn (Cal Baptist) and an RBI double from 2B Vinny Capra (Richmond) to pull ahead.
This time, they never relinquished the lead.
Instead, they tacked two more in the fourth on Johnston’s big fly.
But Bend rallied against the Sweets bullpen. In the seventh, the Elks scored thrice. Two of the three runs came on wild pitches and the capper was a run-scoring single from 1B Niko Holm (Santa Clara). Into the seventh inning stretch, the Sweets led 6-5.
A bases-loaded walk drawn by 3B Cameron Deere (Brown) in the seventh against the reliever LHP Grant Larson (Chico State) gave the home team an insurance run.
And in the eighth, the Sweets truly blew it open. They scored six runs on just three hits, capitalizing on a bevy of errors and wild pitches. RF J.J. Hancock (Washington State) provided an RBI double and pinch-hitter Nick Nyquist (Gonzaga) followed with a run-scoring single.
Nyquist’s hit broke an 0-for-17 slide. With four more games played and nine more runs scored, Nick will surpass Oregon State OF Andrew Mendenhall (2011 & 2014) as the team’s all-time leader in both of those categories.
Despite a two-run home run by Kroon in the ninth, the Sweets held on to win easily.
Their record in the second half improves to 3-8 (18-20 overall). Meanwhile, Bend falls to 7-5 (19-20 overall).
Esqueda (3-0) wins. Acuna (2-2) loses. Johnston’s home run was his first. Kroon’s was his fourth.
The Elks take two out of three from the Sweets at Borleske. After a two-day layoff, the Sweets will begin their post-All Star schedule with three games at home against the Corvallis Knights. Games will be July 19 – 21 at Borleske Stadium.
After that, the team plays 10 of 12 on the road.
The Sweets will send four players to Tuesday’s All-Star game in Yakima. 3B Nick Nyquist (Gonzaga), OF Jake Suddleson (Harvard), OF J.J. Hancock (Washington State), and RHP Darius Vines (Oxnard CC) will all represent Walla Walla at the WCL’s midsummer classic.
Nyquist will also participate in the home run derby Monday night.
by Ben Farber
Audio Highlights -- Glenn's triple
Sweets Scoop -- Frank Mutz