This is the Lead Off, our weekly look at the goings on around the West Coast League, featuring highlights and game sound to showcase the personalities that have taken root on the Northwest's collegiate baseball circuit.
The West Coast League season started in earnest this week with all twelve teams in action, ten of which were paired against each other in the first league match-ups of the season. Fittingly enough, a lead off man starts The Lead Off: Jace Van De Brake got the ball (or in this case, the apple) rolling for the Pippins against Klamath Falls.
(Ryan Rouillard, Pippins Radio Network)
The redshirt freshman at Gonzaga had just two RBIs but went 6-for-10 with six walks and three stolen bases atop the Pippins order and was named the WCL Player of the Week for his troubles. Yakima Valley put a massive hurt on the Gems at The Orchard, sweeping the opening series of 2015 and outscoring them 32-6 over the weekend. Van De Brake set the table for the likes of Reid Martinez, who set a team record with six RBIs in the record-setting 16-2 rout the Pippins posted on Sunday, one of six Pippins team records to fall that night.
Yakima will travel to face Kelowna next, after the Falcons - who've won just 33 games in the last two years - stunned some sizable crowds at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. Second-year manager Billy Clontz and his team took two of three from the HarbourCats on the road this weekend, capped by an 8-3 hit parade on Sunday. The Falcons hit four home runs in the game as part of 17 total hits in an impressive offensive display matched by Fremont, California, native Elias Bedolla, who threw six scoreless innings with just two hits and seven strikeouts to get the win for Kelowna, their fourth in the last six meetings with Victoria. The timing couldn't be better for Kelowna, as a pair of corporate partners have bought out the entire stadium for their home opener on Tuesday, meaning every seat is free.
The HarbourCats welcome the Kitsap BlueJackets to SportsTraders Diamond Tuesday night after Kitsap went on the road to Bellingham to face the reigning WCL champion Bells. It was the home team's day in the opener, with the Bells withstanding a two-run rally in the ninth for a 4-3 win and blwoing out the BlueJackets on Saturday, 11-2. Dustin Brashears homered twice in the series, and Bellingham's pitching was in good form from the outset, never allowing more than three earned runs and posting a .240 opposing batting average.
Indeed, their pitching was almost as good as the staff for the Bend Elks, who took on perennial powerhouse Corvallis in Bend over the weekend. The Knights tossed a 3-0 shutout on Friday, but the Elks only gave up one more earned run on the weekend, winning 8-5 on Saturday and 7-1 on Sunday. All three of the Elks' starters lasted at least six innings, something no other staff did on opening weekend. Pitching coach Alan Embree should be proud.
Walla Walla's staff didn't even have its pitching coach until Sunday; Jim Ozella's Hart High School Indians went to the CIF Southern Section Division I champinship game after upsetting baseball juggernaut JSerra Catholic. He missed the opening night tilt against the Medford Rogues, but the Sweets staff held the fort while Chris McCready put on a show.
(Keith Brake, Sweets Radio Network)
McCready went 3-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs, two runs scored, and finished the triple shy of the cycle as the Sweets held off the Rogues late to win 7-4. Medford bounced back to take game two 5-4, then got a lift from Derron Davis to win the rubber match in ten innings, 10-9. Davis got an RBI double off pitcher Sean-Luke Brija to give the Rogues the lead in the bonus frame, his fifth hit and sixth time on base in the game. Medford won the opening series for the first time in its franchise's history, while the Sweets dropped to 2-4 all-time in openers.
In non-league action, the Wenatchee AppleSox took three of four starting on Thursday, splitting with the San Francisco Seals and sweeping two games from the Spokane Expos, including a 15-4 rout on Sunday. The Cowlitz Black Bears dropped their Thursday night contest against the Thurston County Senators 7-6, but bounced back to take three games from three different Portland travel teams: a 9-3 win over the Ports on Friday, a 15-4 blowout of the Stars on Saturday, and an 8-7 win over the Dukes Sunday evening. Cowlitz welcomes Bend to start its WCL slate, while Wenatchee travels south to Borleske to face the Sweets.
Check in with us every Monday for another review of the West Coast League with Episode 2 of The Lead Off!