Ernie Yake played hometown hero on Friday night for the Bells with a bases loaded single through the left side in a 2-1 victory over the Portland Pickles.
Portland (9-3) plated the first run of the contest in a game that saw seven consecutive innings of dominant pitching. The Pickles led off the top of the eighth inning with an extra-base hit, the first of the game.
Things got a little messy from there, for the Bells. Reliever Ben Leeper then gave up an infield single that brought runners to the corners. From bad to worse, a pass-ball squirmed passed catcher Cody Pasic to give Portland a 1-0 lead.
With no outs in the top of the eighth inning and a runner in scoring position, Leeper buckled down and retired the next three batters to limit the damage.
Then it was Bellingham’s turn.
Landen Kimbro, making his Bells debut, lined a shot to the gap in right-center for a leadoff ground rule double. He was just the third runner at that point to get into scoring position. A groundout, a walk, a strikeout, and another walk set the stage for Ernie Yake.
In front of friends and family, the Bellingham native stepped into the batter’s box with bases loaded and two outs. On a 2-1 pitch, Yake found a hole on the left side and exploited it for a single. The first run came in and in came Griffin McCormick rounded third for a play at the plate. The umpire spread his arms parallel to the ground, signaling a 2-1 Bells lead.
“It’s just a great experience to be at home with my family and stuff,” Yake said. “I just feel comfortable especially here at Joe Martin in front of my hometown.”
Taylor Davis, another Washington local, was able to close the door by retiring three in a row after giving up a leadoff single.
Bellingham fans are no strangers to pitchers’ duels at Joe Martin field. Friday night’s contest against the Portland Pickles was much of the same.
In his first appearance in a Bells’ uniform, Grant Holman threw an absolute gem. The recent high school graduate showed no signs of intimidation on the hill for Bellingham in six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, walking one batter and striking out four. The tall six-foot six-inch right hander showed no signs of slowing down in his debut, setting down 10 straight batters before reaching his pitch count.
In the final stretch of Bellingham’s road trip, the Bells showed their ability to out-hit opponents but got back to some familiarity at home with a 2-1 pitchers’ duel.
If game one was an indicator of things to come, the two teams with the lowest ERAs in the West Coast League will face off again tomorrow.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 pm.