If the first week of a West Coast League season is the most challenging, bringing in so many players from so many different places, then the Yakima Valley Pippins are seriously ahead of the curve already.
And having a closer-turned-workhorse like Mark Woinarowicz is a big reason why.
With early runs from the offense and a solid start by Joe Magrisi, the Pippins got what they needed up front and then Woinarowicz made quick work of the rest as Yakima Valley dispatched Victoria 4-2 for its fourth straight win Wednesday night and pushed the team’s stellar early record to 6-1.
Woinarowicz, a closer for Cal State East Bay this spring, retired the first eight batters he faced and stretched out for a brisk and efficient five scoreless innings, throwing strikes on 42 of his 57 pitches.
“We haven’t had time yet to set roles and, really, I don’t look at the length of an outing that much,” said the 6-foot-2 right-hander, who yielded his lone hit with two outs in the ninth inning. “I never went longer than an inning or two as a closer, but now we’re just taking it inning by inning and today I felt really good.”
“We shut Joe down after four (innings) because he’s going to be one of our main starters this summer,” said YV manager Marcus McKimmy. “We bring in Mark and he never gave us a reason to take him out. We watched his velocity and control and he was sharp, so we just stayed with it.”
While Magrisi wasn’t as dominant as he was in the Pippins’ home opener last Friday, a performance that earned him WCL pitcher of the week, he was plenty good enough.
Especially in tandem with Yakima Valley’s lively early at-bats.
After Magrisi gave up his first run of the season in the top of the opening frame, the Pippins responded immediately with a three-run rally that started with an RBI single by Davis graduate Henry Gargus, who was a designated hitter batting in the clean-up spot. Gargus later scored on Tanner Parker’s two-out, two-run single.
The Pippins’ bats kept the momentum going into the second, opening with back-to-back singles by the No. 8 and 9 hitters. Catcher Korrey Siracusa eventually scored on Tyler Pittman’s sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
Magrisi conceded a second run in the fourth inning, but he finished off his final frame with his sixth strikeout.
Then Woinarowicz took over and that was that.
“My fastball command was really good, so good that I felt like I could put it wherever I wanted,” he said. “When I missed with it I missed in good spots and wasn’t getting hurt. I would’ve liked my slider to not be so elevated — that one dude (Emilio Nogales) almost hit it out in the ninth but Riley (Gill) chased it down. I’m glad this is a big park.”
Parker, a Ferris graduate who played on Yakima Valley College’s NWAC championship team before heading off to Middle Tennessee State, added a double in the third inning and was the only batter in the game with two hits.
It was all smiles on the field after Woinarowicz’s final pitch and why not? The Pippins are hitting, pitching and playing defense well. And, thus, winning a bunch of games.
“We throw strikes and, for the most part, get good at-bats,” McKimmy said. “It’s a long summer but this is definitely a nice start.”
“Our pitchers don’t walk many, and I think our defense is just fantastic,” Woinarowicz added. “I can trust any of these guys to make a play. We’re a solid team, and all of us have the right mindset. I was surprised how quickly I made friends with everybody and it’s because we share that attitude, which is why we’re off to a start like this.”