So, there were a few technical issues yesterday, which is why this is going up this morning. The chief one is, my computer refused to boot until about two hours before game time, meaning everything was scaled down or pushed back. Hence, The Lead-Off is on Tuesday this week. Everyone cross your fingers that this doesn't happen again.
The first full week of the WCL season is done, and the season feels like it's in the home stretch already. All teams have 1/6th of their schedules behind them now. When they say "short-season baseball," they mean "short season baseball."
Let's start with a clash that started the weekend with first-place implications in the East. After the Sweets won a three-game set of pitcher's duels with Wenatchee with a tenth-inning walk off from ten-day player Clayten Ayres - who has since been picked up for the full season - they headed to Yakima to take on Stanley Pippin and Friends. The Sweets won game one and were well on their way to the second tilt until the seventh. From there on out, the Pippins scored two runs in each of the last three frames, culminating in this number from Reid Martinez:
Ryan Rouillard, Pippins Radio Network
That was Martinez's first home run of the year, and the first Easton Lucas had allowed since April 30, 2014 - as a junior in high school. The Sweets got the better of the Pippins in the rubber match, though. After tying the game in the fifth and falling behind again, the Sweets went ahead in the sixth:
Keith Brake, Sweets Radio Network
That was just the third RBI of the year for Kopach, but it was the one that made the difference. Walla Walla's pitching staff closed the door, and the Sweets took the series from Yakima Valley. They've won three of the four series between the two teams in their combined history.
The Pippins were trying to hold off the Kelowna Falcons for first place in the division, but their half-game lead was eroded by the series loss. Well, that and a Kelowna surge to win four straight to end the week, starting with a win over Yakima Valley in the finale of their set at Elks Stadium and ending with a sweep of the Medford Rogeu. The Falcons have kept the long ball going with two more in the Medford set, one each from Justin Flores and Brandon Grimsley. They're tied for the league lead in home runs with seven total, and are in non-league action against the Okanagan Athletics before going to Yakima to face the Pippins for first place in the division.
Speaking of first place, that's where the reigning champs are. The Bellingham Bells had split their first two games with Klamath Falls after taking two of three from Corvallis in the midweek series. Much like the Falcons, the Bells used a power surge to put away the Gems.
Erik Oas, Bells Radio Network
The back-to-back homers came from Andrew Reichenbach and Bronson Larsen and pushed the Bells to a 9-6 win. Bellingham meets Walla Walla in a set starting tonight at Joe Martin Field.
Kitsap and Victoria both give chase to the Bells as they scrap to get back to .500. The BlueJackets took two of three from Cowlitz with an 8-1 win in a rubber match Sunday, while Victoria dropped two of three to the Bend Elks in their weekend set, then came home and dropped the opener of their set with the Black Bears Monday night.
Bend, meanwhile, is not only atop their division, but atop the lead with a 7-2 record entering today's action. Their pitching staff that led the league in ERA at the end of the first weekend has cooled off, but the Elks still got good outings from Patrick McGuff (2 runs on 3 hits with 5 strikeouts in 5 innings) and Aaron Leasher (1 run on 2 hits with 8 strikeouts in 5 innings). Oh, and their offense gave them a good outing, too: they beat Victoria by an eye-popping scoreline of 24-5 on Friday.
The Elks lead the South Division by two games, with Corvallis back in stride with a sweep of the Wenatchee AppleSox to string together four straight wins, while Medford sits two and a half games back after a rocky week, and Cowlitz brings up the rear in the South.
What will change? Who will rise and fall in the next week? The races will be much more developed when we lead off Week 3 in less than seven days.