The Bells had been in this situation before. Down early to Yakima Valley after the Pippins knocked out Bellingham starter Grant Goodman (University of San Francisco), a 5-0 deficit only awoke the sleeping giant. Both Dan Ludwig (Belmont University) and Ryan McMonigle (Concordia University) held down the fort with stellar relief efforts while the Bells chipped away at the lead and eventually watched as Yakima Valley caved in. Heath’s RBI single in the ninth inning drove in Lou Della Fera (University of Maine) and David Bigelow (Gonzaga) closed out his West Coast League-leading 10th game of the season. Bellingham won the series, taking the final two games by a total of two runs at Yakima County Stadium in Yakima, Wash.
“The Bells really came through tonight,” said Bellingham pitching coach Jim Clem on the Bells Radio postgame. “Both Ryan and Dan came in and shut the door and that’s what we needed them to do.”
Shut the door they did. More like slammed and locked it. Ludwig took over for Goodman (1.2 innings, 5 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, strikeout) with two outs in the second inning and compiled 3.1 innings of scoreless relief with four strikeouts. The southpaw only allowed one hit in his outing and kept the Pippins hitters off balance with his crafty nature and stingy control. McMonigle faced nine hitters and set down all of them, finishing with four strikeouts- including striking out the side in the eighth. The righty from Concordia University made short order of all nine hitters he faced, using a dazzling array of pitches and commanding each one with equal effectiveness.
“Our relief corps did a marvelous job,” Clem said. “Ryan just rejoined our team and tonight he proved why he’s here.”
Down 5-0 through two innings, the Bells tallied four runs of their own in the third, after they attacked Yakima Valley starter Austin Woodward with one out. After a walk to Conner Switzer (Lower Columbia College), Nate Anderson (Bellevue) singled and Della Fera drove in Switzer with a single to cut the deficit to 5-1. Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga) then doubled in both Anderson and Della Fera and Heath drove in Breshears with an RBI groundout to slice the Pippins lead to one, 5-4.
Yakima Valley starter Woodward worked six innings, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs with three strikeouts and a walk. Kenny Rosenburg took over for Woodward in the seventh and coughed up the lead, as the Bells scored the tying and game-winning runs off the southpaw. He walked three, struck out four, but allowed two earned runs on two hits in his relief appearance.
Both teams were held scoreless until the seventh when Breshears drove in Anderson on a perfectly placed groundout to the right side off Rosenburg.
“Dustin had a really good at-bat, he had two strikes on him” said Clem when discussing the tying run. “He did a really nice job of hitting it to the right side and driving in the tying run for us.”
Della Fera, for the second straight night, finished with two hits and scored the game-winning run on Heath’s RBI single with one out in the ninth inning.
“He’s swinging a good bat,” Clem said of Della Fera. “He gets on base and he’s a threat. He’s an excitable runner and opposing pitchers know it.”
Heath continues to be an offensive force in the West Coast League, as he drove in the game-winner with a single in the ninth inning. The WCL All-Star has impressed even his own coaching staff with his veteran leadership and clutch performances.
“Scott is a veteran who leads by example,” said Clem. “He came through again for us tonight. He put a good swing on the ball and it proved to be the game-winner for us.”
With the victory, Bellingham has now won 10 out of 13 West Coast League series this season and are a WCL-best 28-10 (30-10 overall). After dropping the series opener on Tuesday night, 6-1, the Bells won two close games on the road against the Pippins, who lead the East. Bellingham is now 13-2 against the WCL-East Division this season, while Yakima Valley falls to 22-17 with the defeat.
“There are a lot of different ways to win a baseball game,” Clem said. “The key is continuing to play. This game will go down as one of the better games we’ve played this season.”
The Bells are right back to work on Friday night at home against the Cowlitz Black Bears, with first pitch at Joe Martin Field set for 7:05pm PDT. Tomorrow’s probable starter for Bellingham is Michael Rucker (BYU). The Bells swept Cowlitz at home, July 3-5 and lead the West Coast League-West by a full 10 games heading into this weekend’s series. Dave Grant has the play-by-play coverage, starting at 6:35pm with the pregame show on AM 930 KBAI and online at 930kbai.com.