Chris Baker lined a base hit into left field in the bottom of the 11th inning, scoring Dallas Carroll as the Bells took down the Cowlitz Black Bears, 3-2 on Friday, July 25 at Joe Martin Field.
A pitchers' duel early, all the runs scored in the game came in the 8th inning or later. Facing a 1-0 deficit entering the bottom of the 8th inning, Bellingham (31-10, 29-10 WCL) rallied for two runs before Cowlitz tied it in the 9th inning, setting the stage for Baker's heroics.
Carroll (University of Utah) singled to center field with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, advancing to second on a passed ball before catcher Eric Webber (Georgetown University) walked. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Baker roped a full-count pitch to left field, scoring Carroll with ease.
Baker (University of Washington) said it was the first walk-off hit of his college career, and explained his approach in the at-bat on the postgame radio show.
"(Runners on) second and third you want to elevate something," Baker said. "Especially with the infield in. I got a fastball in, belt-high and I drove it , which was exactly what I was looking for."
Cowlitz broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 8th inning when a run scored on an errant throw. With runners on first and third, it appeared that the Black Bears were looking for a safety squeeze, as the runner at third base, Cowlitz shortstop Taylor Bryant, took a big secondary lead toward home on a pitch. The ball was not bunted, but a snap-throw attempt to pickoff went into left field, and Bryant was able to score.
Bellingham rallied for two runs in the bottom half of the frame, beginning when right fielder Jack Klein (Stanford University) reached on an error. Center fielder Nate Anderson (Bellevue College) followed with a single. Klein scored, advancing two bases from second when the Cowlitz third baseman threw the ball into right field while attempting to turn a double play on a ground ball hit by left fielder Lou Della Fera (University of Maine). Anderson scored the go-ahead run for a 2-1 lead when second baseman Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga University) executed a safety squeeze bunt up the first-base line and reached safely with a hit after no one covered first base for the Black Bears.
"One thing that this club does, again, is continue to fight," Bellingham Assistant Coach Mike Gange said. "And with that fighting, it's all between the ears. It's a mental thing and they don't give up."
Bellingham was a strike away from winning the game in the top of the 9th inning, but Cowlitz leadoff hitter Kort Peterson singled to left field, scoring left fielder Brennan Salgado from second base.
A pair of strong defensive plays kept the game scoreless in the 10th inning. With runners on first and second, Carroll fielded a sharply hit ground ball, stepping on third and firing the ball to first base to complete an inning-ending double play. Bellingham nearly walked off in the bottom of the inning when Breshears drove a ball deep to the right-center gap with Della Fera on second base. But Peterson made a running catch in front of the 350-foot sign and slammed into the wall, denying Breshears a potential game-winning hit.
Cowlitz starter Shane Bieber followed a strong outing against Bellingham earlier this month with another impressive performance, striking out 10 hitters in 7.2 innings pitched.
It was the second extra-inning game between the teams in four games played against each other this season. Bellingham won the first extra-inning game, 2-1 in 17 innings on July 3.
Bellingham faces the Black Bears again Saturday in game two of the three-game series. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. The first 750 fans will receive a Jim Clem bobblehead, courtesy of Sound Beverage.