CORVALLIS, Ore. — The West Coast League championship will be decided Friday night.
Yakima Valley fell just short of earning the trophy in a 2-1 loss at Corvallis Thursday night. The four-time defending champions held the Pippins to just four hits and they failed to advance a runner past first base in the last five innings.
Alex Shanks put the Pippins ahead briefly when he doubled and scored on a Connor Coballes sacrifice fly in the top of the third. But Corvallis responded immediately with a pair of runs thanks to three singles and an error.
Yakima Valley's offense couldn't take advantage of another leadoff double, this time by Sam Olsson in the top of the fourth. Several Pippins hitters made good contact the rest of the way, only to see Corvallis fielders come up with some difficult defensive plays.
Kenny Johnson struck out nine batters in five innings as the Pippins’ pitching staff mostly picked up where it left off in a 4-1 Game 1 win over Corvallis on Tuesday. Yakima Valley’s Julian Taudin-Chabot, Payton Robertson and Dylan Bishop combined to pitch three scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Those efforts should mean top relievers Owen Wild, Landon Schirer and probably Case Matter will be available out of the bullpen in Friday's decisive Game 3, although Matter threw two innings to pick up a win on Tuesday. Former Yakima Valley College righthander Seth Kuykendall appears to be the likely starter, since he's had plenty of time to recover after throwing 104 pitches in a 6-3 win over Bellingham last Sunday.
The Pippins will be looking for their first West Coast League title in the franchise's six-season history. Meanwhile, Corvallis has won seven titles and reached all but two championship series since 2007.
Corvallis swept through its divisional series, outscoring Ridgefield 22-6 in two games. Yakima Valley bounced back from a 14-1 loss to eliminate Bellingham in three games, capped off by an 11-5 win on Monday.
Both teams dominated their divisions all season, capturing titles in both the first and second halves. The Pippins finished five games ahead of second place, while the Knights cruised to a WCL-best 37-11 record, 11 games ahead of their nearest competitor in the South Division.
Johnson, Taudin-Chabot (6), P. Robertson (7), Bishop (7) and Olsson. Uber, Wiese (7), Redmond (8) and
YV highlights: Alex Shanks 1-3, 2b, run; Sam Olsson 1-4, 2b.