Bellingham starting pitcher Aaron Sandefur came within two outs of a perfect game, and a pair of leadoff doubles sparked the offense for Bellingham as the Bells shut out the Cowlitz Black Bears, 2-0 on Sunday, July 27 at Joe Martin Field.
"Any time you get within two outs of a perfect game, that alone a no-hitter, you just sit there and watch the magic happen," Bellingham Pitching Coach Jim Clem said. "It was a special day."
Sandefur (Bellevue College) retired 25 batters in a row before a pinch-hit single up the middle from Jonathon Serven broke up the perfect-game bid. Sandefur received an ovation from the crowd following the hit, aware of the pitching performance and chance for perfection from the WCL all-star.
"I've seen a ton of games -- I've been around baseball my whole life and have seen a lot of great things," Clem said. "This is going to go in the books, this is one of those special days."
The Black Bears singled three times against Sandefur in the 9th, but Bellingham preserved the shutout when right fielder Jack Klein (Stanford University) fielded a single and threw out a Cowlitz baserunner attempting to score at home plate for the final out of the inning.
"That was awesome," Bellingam catcher Eric Webber said of the final out. "I honestly didn't think the guy was going to go, but Jack's got a great arm out there and the throw was on the money."
Sandefur finished the game with eight strikeouts and no walks, allowing only the three hitters who singled in the 9th inning to reach base. Sandefur improved to 5-2 in WCL play with the win.
"My plan was to work ahead," Sandefur said. "They swing early and they put some good swings on the ball. But my defense was great behind me and fortunately I was able to mix pitches well and keep them off-balance."
Bellingham took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st inning, sparked by a leadoff double from second baseman Dustin Breshears. Breshears jumped on the second pitch of the inning, driving it over the head of the Cowlitz right fielder and short-hopping the wall for a stand-up double. Breshears advanced to third base on a groundout and scored when designated hitter Scott Heath (University of Maine) hit a sacrifice fly to deep right-center field.
The Bells added an insurance run in the 7th inning, again following a leadoff double. Center fielder Nate Anderson (Bellevue College) doubled down the left-field line past a diving Cowlitz third baseman and arrived at second with a stand-up double. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Breshears, and scored on a wild pitch two batters later.
On the postgame radio show, Clem commended the pitching performance as helpful for the Bellingham bullpen, which has pitched significantly recently and was able to rest with Sandefur's performance. He also spoke to the play of Webber (Georgetown University) behind the plate, calling a great game and working well with Sandefur in the performance. Clem noted that the Bells let their catchers call pitches, which is not common among collegiate programs.
"It was a well-called game, you've got to give a lot of credit to the catcher," Clem said.
Sandefur echoed Clem's comments on the postgame show.
"He's great back there," Sandefur said of Webber. "We've been meshing really well. I don't have to shake him off too much, he knows what he's doing and knows what pitches to call."
With the win, Bellingham improved to 5-1 against the Black Bears, a division rival. All six games have been decided by four runs or fewer. The Bells conclude their regular-season schedule with a three-game series at Cowlitz.
Bellingham begins its final regular season home series tomorrow against the Medford Rogues. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.