Cowlitz starting pitcher Reza Aleaziz held the Bellingham offense in check for seven innings and the Bells were shut out for just the third time this summer, 3-0 on Saturday, July 26 at Joe Martin Field.
Despite the loss, Bellingham (31-11, 29-11 WCL) continues to lead the WCL West Division by 11.5 games.
Cowlitz took a 2-0 lead in the 4th inning, sending seven hitters to the plate and scoring on two RBI singles. The Black Bears had runners on third base and first base with nobody out following a leadoff double and an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. An RBI single from designated hitter Joey Greco brought home the first run. The Black Bears put runners on the corners again after Greco was caught too far off first base on a pickoff attempt, but eluded a tag in a pickle and reached second base. A walk and another stolen base from Greco provided a run-scoring opportunity for first baseman Chris Iriart, who singled to shallow right-center field for the second run of the inning.
The Black Bears added an insurance run in the 6th inning on a two-out, solo home run to left field from third baseman Jonathon Serven.
Aleaziz struck out five batters and allowed only two hits in 7.1 innings of work. The right-hander left the game with a 2-0 count and one out in the 7th inning with what appeared to be a calf injury. Bellingham managed to get only three runners to second base throughout the game.
"I think we can all just kind of tip our cap to him, because he really just competed tonight," Bellingham Assistant Coach Mike Gange said.
Bellingham starting pitcher Zach Johnson (Edmonds CC) threw seven innings, striking out six and walking one while allowing three runs. He also picked off two baserunners, adding to a long list of runners that have fallen victim to an excellent pickoff move this summer.
"The good thing about ZJ (Zach Johnson), is that he competes," Gange said. "He competes, and he kept us in this ball game."
Bellingham threatened to score in the 9th inning after a leadoff walk to first baseman Scott Heath (University of Maine) and an error on a ground ball hit by right fielder Walker Olis (Pacific University) put runners on first and second. A groundout advanced the runners, but a strikeout ended the game and preserved the shutout for Cowlitz.
Olis, center fielder Lou Della Fera (University of Maine) and second baseman Chris Baker (University of Washington) each had a hit for Bellingham. Catcher Conner Switzer (Lower Columbia College) reached base twice, getting hit by a pitch during two at-bats.
Bellingham and Cowlitz face off again Sunday in the rubber match of the three-game series. It's Family Fun Day Sunday and first pitch is set for 3:05 p.m.