The Bellingham Bells high-scoring offense was held in check for the second consecutive night, as Bend became the first team to shut out the Bells this season with a 3-0 win on Saturday, June 21 at Joe Martin Field.
The Elks (6-9) denied the Bells (8-5) a potential run-scoring rally in the bottom of the ninth as Bend reliever Kevin Sheets (Abilene Christian) entered the game with the bases loaded with one out, and got designated hitter Dylan Garcia (Cal State Chico) to ground into a game-ending double play. After scoring six or more runs in 10 of their first 11 games, Bellingham has been held to a single run in its last two games. The loss handed Bellingham its first series defeat of the year, and marked the first time the Bells have lost two in a row in 2014.
With only one hit for Bellingham through the first eight innings, left fielder Lou Della Fera (University of Maine) led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left field. After Nate Anderson (Bellevue College) flew out to center, first baseman Scott Heath (University of Maine) singled up the middle, putting runners on first and second for third baseman Dallas Carroll (University of Utah).
Carroll drove the first pitch he saw deep down the left field line, putting the crowd on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a potential game-tying home run. But the ball fell just short of the 325-foot sign down the line in foul territory. A few pitches later Carroll hit a hard ground ball to second base, which was mishandled and loaded the bases for Garcia. Sheets notched the one-pitch save, inducing the game-ending double play.
Despite the loss and lack of offense early in the game, Bellingham assistant coach Mike Gange noted the resilience and battle put forth by Bellingham.
"It goes back to fight, and this club does have a lot of fight," Bellingham assistant coach Mike Gange said. "They got us early and we ran out of time."
Bend scored two runs with two outs in the first inning to capture the early lead. A single followed by a walk put runners on first and second before Bellingham starter Zach Johnson (Edmonds CC) slipped during his delivery and balked, putting two runners in scoring position. A wild pitch scored both runners, as the ball skipped toward the third base dugout and Bellingham catcher Conner Switzer (Lower Columbia) was unable to initially see where the ball had rolled on the wild pitch.
Johnson settled in after the first inning, setting down 13 of the next 15 hitters he faced. A two-out, solo home run in the sixth inning by Trevor Allen was one of just four hits allowed by Johnson.
Bend starter Patrick McGuff (Morehead State) allowed a hit to Colby Woodmansee (Arizona State) in the third inning but held the Bells hitless from that point forward, pitching six strong innings with seven strikeouts.
"I know we're kind of upset that this is the first series we've lost," Heath said. "I think we're going to come out tomorrow (Sunday) and play a real strong game, so hopefully that happens."
The Bells will look to avoid the sweep Sunday and snap a two-game losing streak when they host Bend for the final game of the series. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m.