A good old-fashioned pitcher's duel ensued on Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 2,125 at Paul Thomas Sr. Field in Wenatchee, Wash. between the Bells and AppleSox- until the seventh inning, that is. The teams combined for 13 runs in the final three frames, as Bellingham managed the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning to beat Wenatchee, 7-6 and sweep the three-game series. The Bells have now won nine consecutive games (seven in West Coast League play) and are 15-5 in the West Coast League West Division. After the Bells took a 6-0 lead, the AppleSox pushed six runs across in the eighth to tie the game and put the pressure back on the Bells. Olis' single in the ninth drove in Scott Heath (Maine) after Heath reached base with a two-out infield single that opened the door for a Jack Klein (Stanford) walk and Olis's heroics.
"I was talking to both Klein and Heath and we were discussing which pitch would be coming," said Olis on the postgame. "It was all set up by Jack's great at-bat to draw a walk and Scott's single to keep the inning alive."
Heath's single down the third base line was fielded by Wenatchee third baseman Nate Esposito (Oregon State) in fair territory after the AppleSox infield believed the ball to be foul. Klein then drew a six-pitch walk, fouling off a tough pitch to keep the count full. Olis hit a 1-0 pitch into left field that brought Heath all the way in from second after a close play at the plate.
A six-run eighth inning by Wenatchee was preceded by both three-run seventh and eighth innings from the Bells, who jumped all over the AppleSox bullpen when Wenatchee starter Griffin Canning exited after the sixth. Eric Webber (Georgetown), Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga) and Nate Anderson (Bellevue College) all drove in seventh inning runs, as Bellingham hit Shaun Vetrovec (UC Irvine) hard. Vetrovec retired the first hitter he faced, then allowed a single to Danny Miller (Chico State), a ground-rule double to Olis and walk to Dylan Garcia (Chico State) to load the bases. The Bells led 3-0 after the seventh and added three more runs in the eighth with RBI singles by Garcia, Webber and Breshears.
"We knew they would come back," said Bells head coach Jeff James. "Wenatchee is a really tough place to play and they are a good team."
With Bellingham leading 6-0, they appeared to be well on their way to a third straight multi-run victory in the series. The AppleSox however, capitalized on a tough eighth inning for the Bells, who allowed six runs to score, knotting the game at six apiece. Three walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch by Hever Bueno (Arizona State) and a two-run error by Dallas Carroll (Utah) opened the door for Wenatchee to make their comeback.
"It was a tough half inning for us," said James. "Wenatchee took advantage of our mistakes and turned the game around."
Bells starting pitcher Eder Erives (Arizona State) pitched an ultra-effective seven frames, allowing only three hits, no runs with four strikeouts. David Bigelow (Gonzaga) was called upon for the second straight night and pitched well again, this time tossing 1 1/3 innings and allowed one unearned run with a strikeout. Bigelow now boasts a microscopic 0.57 ERA in a team-high 12 appearances this season.
"Eder pitched very well tonight against a good offense," James said. "Bigelow is so tough out of our bullpen and having him in the ninth inning gave us confidence."
Griffin Canning (UCLA) hurled six scoreless innings against the Bells for Wenatchee, striking out a season-high eight, walking only one and scattering three hits. Unfortunately for the AppleSox, after Canning departed, the bullpen imploded. Vetrovec, Nathan Hadley (UCLA) and Trenton Brooks (University of Nevada) coughed up seven earned runs and 10 hits in only three innings of relief. For the second consecutive night a Wenatchee starter left the game having pitched well enough to win, only to have the relief corps sink their ship.
Bellingham outscored the AppleSox 21-9 in the three-game sweep, the first series sweep suffered by Wenatchee at home this season. The Bells have now swept consecutive West Coast League foes, including Kelowna last weekend and have won 15 of their first 20 WCL games. They head home to face the Cowlitz Black Bears on Thursday night, which begins a huge three-game series in the West Coast League West Division.
"We are excited to get back to work in front of our fans," said James. "Our whole mentality is to take it one game at a time and not get too high or too low. We are playing really well and look to keep it up at home this weekend."
Thursday night's first pitch is slated for 7:05pm PDT and can be heard on Bells Radio, beginning at 6:45pm PDT with the pregame show. Dave Grant will call the play-by-play and be taking in-game Tweets through @BellsRadio. Check the Bellingham Bells website (www.bellinghambells.com) and Twitter (@BellsRadio and @BhamBells) for complete broadcast information.