Nothing came easy in a slow, sometimes sloppy game for the Pippins Thursday night.
Still, it looked as though Yakima Valley might be able to grind out a fifth straight win Wednesday night at Yakima County Stadium. It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the mistakes finally proved too much to overcome for the Pippins in a 5-3 loss to Victoria.
All the damage came after reliever Jack Gonzales retired the first two hitters he faced before allowing two to reach base. Nick Brown appeared to get out of trouble with a strikeout, but Tyler Petitt scored the game-tying run on a passed ball that kept the inning alive for Parker Bramlett’s two-run single.
“We had some plays that were under our control that we didn’t make,” coach Marcus McKimmy said. “You don’t play well, you don’t deserve to win in this league.”
Yakima Valley jumped ahead in the first inning for the third time in its last four games thanks to an RBI single by Daniel Cipriano. A chance to add to the lead went wasted after the Pippins failed to take advantage of runners on second and third with no outs.
Former Ellensburg High and Central Washington University lefthander Dillon Larsen retired nine of the next 10 hitters for Victoria, including four strikeouts. He often worked deep into counts, and Yakima Valley forced the Virginia Tech pitcher out after three walks in the fourth inning.
The last one drove in a run and McKimmy said he saw some good approaches from his hitters. Still, they struggled to make solid contact and create any kind of momentum.
“Not scoring’s going to happen sometimes,” McKinney said. “But yeah, we definitely left one or two out there.”
Pippins starter Mark Finkelnburg also failed to make it through the fourth inning, when Victoria’s Matt Clayton drew the second of his team’s seven walks. A.J. Wood worked out of trouble and turned in two shutout innings before handing the lead over to Gonzales.
It’s the first time all season Yakima Valley pitchers have given up more than three runs, a streak that helped the Pippins win four times without scoring more than four runs. McKimmy said more reinforcements should arrive within the next week, and he expects to add five to seven more pitchers.
Colorado Mesa junior Spencer Bramwell arrived about two hours before batting practice, just in time to slot into the lineup as a third baseman. McKimmy expects the catcher/infielder to be one of the team’s better hitters, and he showed why by going 2 for 3 with a walk and a two-out RBI single to score Davis grad Henry Gargus in the seventh.
“I feel pretty comfortable here,” Bramwell said. “Got the first game jitters out of the way. Nice to settle in, but still, got to come up with a win next time.”
He emphasized the importance of staying focused despite the slow pace of play and multiple pitching changes in a game that lasted well over three hours. McKimmy said Yakima Valley wants to speed things up by doing a better job of throwing strikes and controlling the tempo on defense.
Victoria will return to Yakima County Stadium for one game next Thursday in the middle of a seven-game homestand. But the first-place Pippins will travel to Bellingham this weekend for three games against the Bells, one of two teams a game and a half behind Yakima Valley in the West Coast League’s North Division.