Going into Monday's road opener at Wenatchee, both the Bells and the AppleSox were similar in terms of offensive output through the season's initial month. It was Bellingham who exploded for six first-inning runs en route to an 8-1 victory on Monday night at Paul Thomas Sr. Field in Wenatchee, Wash. for their seventh win in a row overall and fifth in West Coast League play. Dallas Carroll (Utah), Scott Heath (Maine), Dylan Garcia (Chico St.) and Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga) all contributed to the early outburst with RBI doubles. Zach Johnson (Edmonds College) hurled six scoreless innings, struck out a season-high seven for his first win of the season. Bellingham is now 13-5 overall in the WCL, while Wenatchee fell to 13-9.
"It's sets notice of what we can do as a club," said Bells assistant coach Mike Gange on the postgame. "Johnson absolutely set the tone for us and carried that offense over to the mound."
Bellingham finished with seven hits and took it to Wenatchee early, scoring six times in the opening frame to give Johnson a lead that he would grab and run with. Two errors and a hit batter in the first inning by the AppleSox did not help their cause, as the Bells sent 11 hitters to the plate and put the pressure on the home team early. Both Heath and Carroll scored twice in the victory, as Heath finished 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
"A weight was lifted- especially when you are on the road," said Bells starter Zach Johnson of the early run support. "Our offense is great. We put up big runs and it was good for me."
Wenatchee managed only one run in the eighth inning after an RBI single by Caleb Wood (Gonzaga) scored Nate Esposito (Oregon State). Stanford-bound southpaw Andrew Summerville, in his first appearance for the Bells, and Michael Rucker (BYU) combined to work three innings of relief with a combined eight strikeouts.
"To come in and grab the ball and start throwing strikes is phenomenal- he knows nothing about the club," Gange said of Summerville. "We had a great pitching performance from all three of our guys tonight."
Summerville entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning and struck out Trenton Brooks (Nevada), then whiffed the final two hitters in the ninth inning- again with the bases loaded- to extinguish Wenatchee once and for all. Rucker struck out the side in the seventh inning and flashed the same nasty combination of pitches that he featured while pitching for Bellingham last summer. The Bells would add two more runs in the seventh inning off an RBI single by Walker Olis (Pacific University) and a sac-fly RBI by Eric Webber (Georgetown) to put the finishing touches on an important series-opening victory.
"We know that they will come back fighting tomorrow," Gange said of the AppleSox.
Wenatchee starter Tyler Frost (Gonzaga) settled down after allowing the early six runs, and in fact set down 11 of the next 12 Bellingham hitters to finish with six strikeouts in five innings, suffering the loss. Lefty reliever Clark McKitrick (Western Oregon) didn't fare much better, allowing two runs on two hits with three walks and four strikeouts in four innings.
"It's big because it sets the tone not only for today, but for the rest of the series," said Bells shortstop Chris Baker of winning the opener on the road.
The Bells have now scored 130 runs through the season's first 18 games of WCL play, and 149 overall. Bellingham's team ERA is 2.70 and has allowed only seven runs in the past five games. Opponents are hitting a league-low .197 against the Bells in '14. Both offense and pitching have been keys to Bellingham's 13-5 start in league play as it prepares for another tough test on Saturday night against Wenatchee.
"It's awesome. It's contagious," Baker said of being part of an explosive offense. "It's what we want in the dugout. We're here to win- we want to win a championship."
The second game of the series between the Bells and AppleSox is scheduled for 7:05pm PDT on Saturday night. Grant Goodman (University of San Francisco) is slated to take the hill for Bellingham. The pregame show begins at 6:45pm PDT through Bells radio and the online stream, with Dave Grant calling the play-by-play.