Jimmy Sinatro's pinch-hit RBI single ended a marathon game as Bellingham outlasted Cowlitz 2-1 in 17 innings to extend its win streak to 10 games on Thursday, July 3 at Joe Martin Field.
On a night that featured strong pitching and plenty of zeroes on the scoreboard, Bellingham (18-5, 16-5 WCL) finally broke through in the bottom of the 17th inning as Dallas Carroll (University of Utah) led off the frame with a double to the gap in right-center field, energizing the crowd that hadn't seen a Bellingham hit since the 12th inning. First baseman Scott Heath (University of Maine) followed with a ground ball hit up the middle, which was mishandled by the Cowlitz shortstop as Carroll broke for third.
That set the stage for Sinatro (Gonzaga University), pinch-hitting with no outs and runners on first and third. With the infield drawn in, Sinatro hit a hard chopper that bounced high over the head of the Cowlitz third baseman and into left field for the walk-off hit. Sinatro was mobbed by his teammates after touching first base as the crowd erupted. The run was the first for either team since the 7th inning.
"This win was huge for team morale," Sinatro said on the postgame radio show. "We got a late bus ride (back from Wenatchee) and came in early this morning and just played 17 great innings of baseball like we did, winning 2-1, bottom of the 17th with our home fans still here, it was unbelievable."
Bellingham had taken a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning after second baseman Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga University) reached on an error and advanced to third following a sacrifice bunt and a single. Baker scored on a safety squeeze bunt by shortstop Chris Baker (University of Washington) that was bunted hard up the first base line.
Cowlitz (11-11) tied the game in the top of the 7th inning, opening the frame with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice fly, third baseman Jon Serven hit a high chopper right in front of the plate. Bellingham recorded an out at second on the play after the ball was fielded by catcher Ian Yetsko (Oakland University), but was unable to complete a double play as a run scored on the throw to second base.
Six Bellingham pitchers held the Black Bears to one run on eight hits in 17 innings of work. Reliever John Albert (Hawaii Pacific University) earned the win, throwing four scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out three. Seth Martinez (Arizona State) had a strong start for the Bells, facing one over the minimum in six innings of work and striking out six. Andrew Summerville (Stanford University), Moises Ceja (UCLA), Michael Rucker (BYU) and David Bigelow (Gonzaga University) also contributed in the relief effort, showcasing why the Bells' pitching staff has the lowest opponent batting average and team ERA in the league.
"You don't go 17 innings with that kind of performance, without guys just getting the job done," Bellingham pitching coach Jim Clem said. "Each one of those guys -- those were stress pitches. It wasn't like any one of those guys came in an easy situation and could have just put it on cruise control."
A fireworks show followed the game for the fans that stayed for the duration of the contest. All three WCL games played Thursday went into extra innings, though Bellingham's game went four innings longer than the next longest contest. Bellingham will look to extend its win streak to 11 in a row as the Bells take on Cowlitz in game two at 1:05 p.m. on July 4.