A tied game with one out in the eighth inning morphed into a 6-1 win for the Pippins over the Bells on Tuesday night in front of over 1,400 fans at Yakima County Stadium in Yakima, Wash. A two-run home run from Mitch Skaggs (College of Idaho) was the highlight of the Pippin victory, as he crushed an 0-1 pitch deep over the left field wall to provide Yakima Valley with the eventual game-winning runs. Bellingham was held hitless for five innings before Jack Klein (Stanford) was able to reach on a leadoff infield single in the sixth inning. Despite the defeat, the Bells are still a West Coast-leading 26-10. With the victory, the Pippins are 22-15 and still in first place in the WCL East Division.
"Today was a tough day," said Bells pitching coach Jim Clem. "We had one of those things that happens once in a while- our bullpen has been terrific all season long and tonight just wasn't their night."
Williams hurled eight innings of one-run baseball for the Pippins and tallied a season-high 11 strikeouts. He retired all 15 hitters he faced in order to begin the game and the only run that he allowed was unearned after a throwing error led to the Bells lone run.
"We had trouble making good contact off their starter," Clem said. "You've got to give credit to him. He threw a lot of offspeed stuff early, mixed his pitches and we just never really got on time with him."
Erives, though, was not about to be outdueled- especially since his last outing (perfect five innings against Victoria on July 15) was cut short. The Arizona State righty retired 10 consecutive batters after allowing a one out double to Alex Guenette (UC Irvine) in the fourth. He finished with five punchouts and only one earned run in the no decision.
"Eder pitched really well and got himself out of a couple jams," said Clem. "He cruised late. Defensively we made plays behind him and his command was great late in his outing."
While Williams picked up the win, his fifth of the season, Dan Ludwig (Belmont University) suffered the loss. The West Coast League All-Star southpaw was uncharacteristically out of sync tonight. After getting a bunt popout to open the eighth, he allowed a double to Reid Martinez (Missouri Western State College), then the round tripper off the bat of Skaggs, which gave Yakima Valley the lead for good, 3-1. Ludwig then hit a batter and walked two more to have his night finished off early. He moves to 4-1 this season, suffering only his first loss out of the Bellingham bullpen. Burk FitzPatrick (University of Delaware) also struggled, forcing in two runs with bases loaded walks and also hit a batter.
"Our bullpen has been so amazing this year" Clem said. "So when they come in and struggle, it's not something that you expect."
Yakima Valley managed only seven hits on the night, yet made the most of them when they counted the most. Ryan Yamane (Northern Colorado) drove in a run with a single in the second and Skaggs' home run in the eighth was his second of the season. All six of the Pippins runs were earned, while Bellingham's only run was unearned. Yakima Valley left nine runners on base compared to three for the Bells. Bellingham managed only six baserunners all night long. Klein collected two hits for the Bells while Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga) and West Coast League All-Star Scott Heath (University of Maine) each pounded out hits. All six of Bellingham's hits in the loss were singles.
"We got out of our routine tonight," said Clem. "Baseball players are creatures of habit. Your routine is a big part of this game."
He is confident that this group, despite a three-game losing streak, is still very much a dangerous team in the West Coast League. Bellingham lost their previous three games by a combined five runs. Tonight, one bad inning did them in.
"We weren't as sharp as we normally are," Clem said. "I fully expect that to come back. It's never fun to lose a game- but we are a competitive bunch and I know that we will be just fine."
Wednesday night's game is set to begin at 7:05pm PDT from Yakima County Stadium with Grant Goodman (University of San Francisco) set as Bellingham's probable starter against the Pippins. The pregame show begins at 6:45pm with Dave Grant calling the play-by-play on Bells Radio (www.bellinghambells.com, "listen live").