After dropping consecutive games for the first time since mid-July, the Bells were seeking answers offensively heading into Sunday's series finale at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park against Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia. Bellingham proved to the HarbourCats and everyone in the West Coast League that when their backs are against the wall they come out swinging. Literally. Three home runs and eight runs later, the Bells shut out Victoria, 8-0, and improved to a WCL-best 33-14 this season. Martinez (Arizona State) moved to a perfect 5-0 this season with six shutout innings against an offense ranked second in the league. The righthander was magnificent again and has now allowed only two earned runs in his last 19 innings.
"Seth was huge for us- as he always is," assistant coach Mike Gange said on the postgame show. "Our offense came alive when we needed them to the most and provided him with run support."
Come alive is an understatement. Garret Harpole (Western Oregon) blasted a solo home run into left field to get the scoring started in the fifth inning, then Jack Klein (Stanford) launched his second round-tripper over left-center field in as many days and the rout was on. Bells would add two more runs in the fifth after Harpole's homer, then four more in the sixth after Klein went deep. That's when Dustin Breshears (Gonzaga) took over. Harpole singled with one out in the sixth and Nate Anderson (Bellevue College) walked. Breshears then crushed a 2-2 pitch over the left-centerfield wall for his first home run of the season and a 6-0 Bells lead. That was all West Coast League All-Star Martinez needed to pick up his team-high tying fifth win of the season.
"When Seth has run support it makes us terribly tough to beat," Gange said. "He is so talented and what he provides us with is toughness and grit on the mound. Our offense feeds off that."
Bellingham pounded out 12 hits and scored eight runs for the first time since beating Kelowna 8-7 on July 12. John Albert (Hawaii Pacific) and Scott Heath (University of Maine) combined for three shutout innings and only allowed one hit between them. Victoria managed only four hits in defeat, after collecting 25 hits through the first two games of the series.
"It was an important game for us," said Gange. "With our road trip continuing tomorrow, it was nice to come out and prove what we can do offensively."
HarbourCats starter Carson Schneider (University of New Mexico) breezed through the first four innings, striking out four and allowing only three hits. He only garnered one out in the fifth, when the Bells struck for the lead and chased the southpaw, leading 3-0. He picked up the loss, falling to 0-1 this season. Bellingham flexed their muscles in the sixth with two home runs and five more runs to clobber reliever Ryan Keller (Cal State Los Angeles), who left with one out in sixth with an apparent right arm injury. Tim Peabody (Loyola Marymount) shut out the Bells for the remaineder of the game, allowing two hits, striking out two with four walks in 3.2 innings.
Bellingham finishes the regular season series against Victoria by going 6-3 against the HarbourCats and outscoring them 40-16 in nine games. The Bells are currently two full games ahead of Corvallis (31-16) for the best record in the West Coast League and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Yakima Valley (29-18) is four games behind Bellingham for home field advantage in the WCL divisional round with seven regular season games left for the Bells and seven (including tonight) for the Pippins.
"Wins are important for us the rest of the way, but so is our health," Gange said. "We are going to keep that in mind as we play our next two series."
The Bells continue their season-high seven game road trip tomorrow at Kitsap against the BlueJackets. First pitch in Silverdale, Wash. is set for 6:35pm PDT with the pregame show beginning at 6:20pm. The four game series against Kitsap can be heard on the Bells Radio Network (www.bellinghambells.com, "listen live") with Dave Grant (Twitter: @TheDaveGrant) calling the action. Also, be sure to follow the broadcast Twitter feed, @BellsRadio, before, during and after game action.