August 4, 2017 - West Coast League (WCL) - Yakima Valley Pippins
LONGVIEW, Wash. - Through two games of their series against the Yakima Valley Pippins, the Cowlitz Black Bears had produced one run. On Thursday, in front of a crowd of 1,123 cheering them on in their regular season home game of the season, the Black Bears' bats woke up just in time to salvage the final game of the series and to force a couple of hectic days of baseball which will ultimately determine who earns the second playoff berth in the West Coast League South.
After scoring their first run of the series with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in game two on Wednesday, Cowlitz (14-10, 25-26) got their offense jumpstarted immediately against Pippins' right-hander, Will Adair (Cal Poly-SLO), as they plated a run in the first inning, before tacking on three more on a pair of hits in the second. Then, in the third inning, Cowlitz used three more hits to push another run across to take a 5-0 lead.
After Adair earned his first scoreless inning of the night in the fourth by retiring the side in order, the Black Bears' once again went to work in the home half of the fifth, scoring three more runs on five hits to stretch their lead to 8-0, all but putting the game out of reach for Yakima Valley.
Meanwhile, Adair's counterpart, Black Bears' left-hander, C.J. Blowers (Edmonds CC), was sensation, limiting the Pippins to one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings of work.
The Pippins (14-10, 27-25) manufactured their lone run off of Blowers in the top of the seventh inning, when Daniel Cope (Cal State Fullerton) followed a Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) one-out double with a ground-rule double of his own to cut the deficit to 8-1.
The Pippins could get no closer, however, getting only a single baserunner (via a Jonny DeLuca in the eighth) in the final two frames, as Cowlitz shut the door and salvaged the final game of the series.
Game Notes: Adair, making his third start for the Pippins, lasted just 4 2/3 innings, and allowed eight runs on nine hits en route to taking his second loss, as his record fell to 2-2. Blowers, who entered the game with a 13.78 ERA, was brilliant in his fourth start of the season, and earned his first win to improve his record to 1-1.
What It Means: Thursday's matchup was the final meeting of the season between the two teams with the season series ending which each team winning three games, and each team winning two out of three road games. Cowlitz previously won two out of three from July 8 to 10 at Yakima County Stadium.
Surprisingly, the win tonight was the Black Bears' first ever win at home against the Pippins as they had lost the previous five matchups. Even with the loss tonight, the Pippins own an 11-4 head-to-head record all-time against Cowlitz. It did, however, mark the first time that the Pippins have not won the season series.
With the win, Cowlitz is now tied with Yakima Valley for second place in the WCL South second half standings, with both teams half a game behind Corvallis, who split tonight's double-header with Wenatchee, with three to play. While there are many possible scenarios in which either the Black Bears or the Pippins could clinch the second half, the Pippins currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker based on overall record, which could change over the course of the next series.
What's Next: Cowlitz begins a pivotal three games series to finish their regular season against on Friday against Bend, whose playoff lives are on the brink as they would be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or another Pippins win.
The Pippins also begin their final road series of the season in Corvallis on Friday night and will have a major challenge on their hands when they face Corvallis left-hander, Cason Cunningham (Linfield, 1-0, 1.69 ERA), whose ERA ranks second in the WCL. Cunningham has struck out 28 and walked just ten with opponents hitting .197 against.