CORVALLIS, Ore. The Yakima Valley Pippins were trailing the Corvallis Knights 4-3 with two runners on base and two outs in top of the ninth inning Saturday night but made a valiant comeback to win, 6-5.
Steve Sordahl stepped to the plate in the ninth, entering the at-bat just two for his last 20. His average had dropped below .300 for the first time since late June. Not only did he need to find a way to snap his recent skid, but he also had to do it against one of the best relievers in the entire West Coast League — Corvallis’ left-handed closer Chase Kaplan (Kansas).
Kaplan had just earned the save in Corvallis’ 6-4 victory in game one of the series on Friday. He entered the contest with a 1.69 ERA and allowed just three extra-base hits all season long.
With his team’s playoff chances hanging in the balance, Sordahl delivered the biggest hit of the Pippins’ season to this point, lining a double into left center field giving Yakima Valley a pair of runs and its first and only lead of the game en route to a 6-5 win.
The win helped the Pippins inch themselves closer to a playoff berth.
For the second night in a row, Corvallis (15-10, 32-20) plated a run in the bottom of the first inning, doing so off of Pippins’ right-hander, A.J. Landis (Colorado Mesa).
It didn’t take the Knights long to stretch the lead after the Pippins (15-11, 28-25) left the bases loaded with one out in the top of the second inning. Corvallis plated three runs in the bottom half of the frame, assisted by a crucial error by Pippins’ shortstop, Tyler Bosetti (Nevada). He had a potential double play ground ball with one out. The ball bounced off his chest and rolled into center field, allowing a pair of runs.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the third inning, the Pippins got on the board thanks to a long two-run home run from Brad Beesley (Cal Poly-SLO). The hit sailed over the left-field bullpen and chipped the deficit to 4-2.
The Knights regained a three-run edge with a run in the fourth. But, the Pippins came right back in the fifth.
After a leadoff double from Jonny DeLuca (Oregon) followed by a single from Otsuka, Beesley was able to sacrifice the runners to second and third base to bring up Mitch Ellis (Western Illinois) with two outs. Ellis put a base hit into left field to plate both runs to trim the deficit to one at 5-4.
The score remained a one- run game until the top of the ninth inning, when the Pippins threatened against Kaplan.
After Otsuka struck out to begin the frame, Beesley was hit by a pitch. Lucas Denney (Seattle U) singled into right field, enabling Beesley to go from first to third base before scoring the tying run.
Ellis tried to bunt in Beesley on a squeeze play that Kaplan read perfectly, tossing the ball to his catcher, Troy Claunch (Oregon State), for the second out of the inning. Sordahl immediately made up for the crucial out, as he lined the second pitch he saw into the gap in left-center to score both Denney and Ellis giving the Pippins a 6-5 lead.
After Pete Minella (Western Illinois) worked a scoreless seventh and eighth, closer, Connor White (Portland) retired the side in order in the ninth to earn the save and preserve the victory, keeping Yakima Valley in the playoff hunt.
Landis made his WCL-leading 11th start and pitched six innings. He allowed 5 runs, two of which were earned.
Minella earned his third win with two scoreless frames of relief to improve to 3-0.