Walla Walla Community College and Yakima Valley started and ended a crucial baseball doubleheader on Wednesday tied for second place, even as East Region standings shifted slightly in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
Yakima handed the Warriors a 6-5 come-from-behind loss in the first game, before Walla Walla bounced back with a 10-2 victory, at WWCC’s Tausick Way field.
Walla Walla (17-11 overall) and Yakima now both have 9-5 records in the league — only now they’re a half-game farther behind first-place Columbia Basin (11-3 in the East), which picked up back-to-back wins at Spokane on Wednesday.
Fourth-place Treasure Valley (8-6 in the East), meanwhile, inched a half-game closer as the Chukars swept cellar-dwelling Wenatchee.
The Warriors started the day in strong position with a 4-0 lead after the first three innings. Colton Peha tripled home Brandon Wagstaff and Josh Kutzke, before scoring on a Futa Ikuma single in their three-run third, finishing off Yakima starting pitcher Matt Driver.
Yak reliever Josh Foster followed Driver with four scoreless innings, retiring 12 of the first 13 Warriors he faced.
Walla Walla starter Jarrod Molnaa, meanwhile, protected their lead until he left after walking Kyle Harvey to start the top of the seventh inning with the Warriors still ahead, 4-2.
Walla Walla reliever Andrew Haughton quickly recorded a force out at second base, but hit Keone Mckee with a pitch before Nathan Harrell singled home a run for Yakima.
A flyout then left the Warriors in need of only one more to end the frame, but before they could, Yakima’s Colin Cinkovich doubled home McKee and an error enabled Harrell to put the Yaks on top for the first time.
Yakima tallied another run off the Walla Walla bullpen to make it a 6-4 game in the top of the eighth inning, adding a little cushion that proved vital.
The Warriors finally scored off Foster in the home half of the eighth, as Josh Kutzke and Peha led off with back-to-back singles and then Austen Morfin’s one-out single loaded the bases.
Kutzke scored on a force-out at second base, with Peha advancing to third as the potential tying run, but Foster recorded a strikeout to end the threat with the Yaks still up, 6-5.
Foster turned the mound over to Jorge Garcilazo for the ninth inning, and he closed the door by setting down the Warriors in order.
Clark Streby gave Walla Walla extra time to recover in the second game. Yakima took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but the Warriors’ starting pitcher then limited the Yaks to a string of zeroes.
Walla Walla exploded for five runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and two more in the seventh with Quentin Lafontaine driving in runs in each frame. He ended up with four runs batted in.
The Warriors also had Kealen Martin’s double, two singles, and two RBIs, Austen Morfin and Sean Coffey each singled twice and came around to score both times.
Streby left in the eight inning with a 10-2 lead that held to the end. He allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks, while chalking up three strikeouts.
Carson Woolery retired all five batters he faced in relief.
“Clark did a great job of throwing strikes and forcing contact,” Walla Walla coach Dave Meliah said. “Quentin, Kealen, Sean, and Austen all swung the bats well and we did a nice job of adding on runs once we got the lead.”
The Warriors now prepare to take a direct shot at division-leading Columbia Basin, with the Hawks visiting Walla Walla for a doubleheader on Saturday.