An excellent outing from Bells starting pitcher Luke Morrill and RJ Ybarra’s first homer of the season, a walk-off shot over the left field fence, led Bellingham to a 2-1 win over the Cowlitz Black Bears on Saturday night.
Ybarra, the power-hitting catcher from Arizona State University, saw a golden opportunity to send the fans at Joe Martin Field home happy and took full advantage. On the second pitch of the at-bat from Cowlitz reliever Billy Sahlinger, Ybarra would turn on the offering, with the result a long home run and a Bells win.
“I’ve been struggling at the plate recently,” said Ybarra. “I went up there saying to myself I was going to hit the walk-off home run.”
It was perfect timing for the Bellingham catcher to hit his first home run of the season.
“It felt good to get that first long ball today for us to win the game,” said Ybarra. “It’s one of the best feelings in baseball knowing that the whole team will be waiting to celebrate with you at the plate.”
The win is the third in a row for Bellingham to improve their record to 14-11 on the season. Cowlitz drops to 12-11 with the loss.
Prior to the excitement in the ninth inning, both teams were led by strong outings from their starting pitchers.
For the Bells, Morrill took the hill and tossed a gem. The University of Maine right-hander was outstanding, allowing only one run and six hits over seven innings, striking out seven on the night. Morrill walked no batters on the evening. He would hand the ball over to UCLA reliever Chase Radan in the eighth inning. Radan earned the win for his two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth.
“Luke pitched outstanding tonight,” said Bells manager Gary Hatch. “I am proud of his effort, he works so hard every day and good things happen to those guys.”
On the Cowlitz side, future University of Oregon Duck Trent Paddon twirled six innings allowing one run on six hits and three walks. Paddon struck out five on the night. Just like Morrill, the Black Bears righty took a no-decision for his efforts.
The scoring for the Bells started in the sixth inning when a Johnny Sewald sacrifice fly would score Christopher Beall and give Bellingham a 1-0 lead.
Cowlitz responded shortly after in the seventh, tallying their lone run of the game on a Danny Recio single to score Devyn Bolasky.
With two outs in the eighth, the Bells would threaten to score, loading the bases for Johnny Farrington. Excellent pitching by Black Bears reliever Cody Rogina would allow Cowlitz to escape unscathed after Rogina got Farrington to fly out to center fielder Austin Grebeck.
After holding Cowlitz scoreless in the top of the ninth, Ybarra would hit his long home run to give the Bells the game and series victory over the Black Bears.
“You knew RJ was going to run into one sooner rather than later,” said Hatch. “The timing couldn’t have been any better.”
Game three of the series between the two teams will be Sunday at 3:05. The Bells will be looking for a series sweep over the Black Bears. All the action can be heard on AM 930 KBAI and 930kbai.com with Mike Weisman on the call.