Game one of the divisional playoff round on Tuesday evening between the Bellingham Bells and Kelowna Falcons was marked by a pitcher’s duel and a 2-1 Bells win.
Justin Calomeni (1-0) started for the Bells and following what he called, “a little nerves in the first inning,” dominated Falcons hitters during his seven innings on the mound.
For Calomeni, his time in the West Coast League came full circle Tuesday night. A season ago he was pitching for the Corvallis Knights and handed the Bells their most recent postseason loss: a game one defeat in last season’s championship series. Last night he was the key figure in a Bells game one win at Joe Martin Field.
The Falcons came in as the number two offense in the league, hitting .297 as a team and averaging six runs a night during the regular season. But after Calomeni’s outing he had issued just two walks, and a single hit.
After the game Calomeni was asked if he was surprised by seeing just one hit put up by such a prolific offense, he said, “No. We had a game plan and we executed it tonight. After my time out [Riley] Storedahl was able to close the door with impressive work out of the bullpen.”
Pitching Coach Jim Clem reiterated the point about a game plan, “we have faced these guys [Kelowna Falcons] seven times now so we had a feeling for what they were good at and where we felt like we could take advantage.” Clem added, “even if you think you know how to get guys out you still have to make pitches and we can say that we did that tonight.”
The Falcons threw a familiar arm: Brady Miller, who did not record a loss all season. In fact, in Miller’s seven starts the Falcons had not lost a game. But the Bells tested the right hander in the first and second innings.
In the first Miller, got into trouble immediately by walking Beau Branton to lead off the inning and hitting Chris Beall two batters later to put runners at first and second. Two batters later, with two out, Walker Olis singled to left. Branton was waved around from third but Falcons leftfielder Justin Flores had a perfect throw home to cut Branton down at the plate.
Still in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning, the Bells put runners on again against Miller. Joey Harris was hit by a pitch with one out to begin the rally, one of three batters Miller hit on the night. Lou Della Fera followed two batters later with a double off the wall in left center, putting runners at second and third.
Beau Branton with two out then lined a single right up the middle for an RBI single to score Harris. Della Fera was waved around as well but was cut down at the plate by centerfielder Grant Meylan to end the inning. Although it plated the first run of the night, it was the second straight inning that the Bells saw a runner tagged out at the plate to end an inning.
The only run for the Falcons came across in the sixth inning without the benefit of the hit. A hit batter, walk, stolen base and ground out were all the Falcons needed to manufacture a run to tie the game at one.
In the bottom of the seventh inning the tie was broken when Bells hitters strung together an infield single from Patrick McGrath and sacrifice bunt from Lou Della Fera to put a man in scoring position. McGrath scored from second when Aaron Stroosma won a nine pitch battle against Jayse Banister (0-1) with an RBI single right up the middle to score McGrath.
The 2-1 lead would hold up thanks to two perfect innings of relief from Riley Storedahl. Storedahl not only did not allow a base runner but recorded four strikeouts to earn the save.
The Bells have a chance to win the series tomorrow and return to the Championship Series with a win in Kelowna. Andrew Kemmerer will take the ball in game two for the Bells. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 with Erik Oas on the call at 930 KBAI for a 6:05 pregame.