By Walla Walla Sweets
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Alex Bonczyk dove head first safely into home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Sweets completed a thrilling comeback for an 8-7 victory against the Central Oregon Bucks on Friday night at Borleske Stadium.
The Sweets (15-17) trailed 3-0 after the top of the third inning but chipped away, eventually taking the lead with a four-run eighth. The Bucks would score four in the top of the ninth to regain the lead but were unable to hold it in the bottom of the ninth.
Trailing 7-5 in the ninth, the Sweets used a two-out rally to plate three runs. Ryan Cooper started the inning with a single and was on second when Kris Paulino dropped a two-strike, two-out double inside the left field line for an RBI double to make it 7-6. Alex Bonczyk then reached on fielding error to put runners on the corners and Shane Zeile's chopper in front of the plate was thrown away at first to allow the tying run to score. Nick Vilter then walked to load the bases and Bonczyk scampered home as the first pitch to J.J. Robinson went to the backstop.
It didn't appear the Sweets would need to bat in the ninth after a thrilling eighth. Chance Kopacz started the inning with a one-out single and scored as Paulino laced a triple into the right field corner. Bonczyk tied the game with a bloop single to center and Zeile gave the Sweets their first lead with a towering two-run home run to left. It was his second in as many nights and his third of the week.
The Bucks battled back in the ninth, however. A single and a hit by pitch started the inning before a one-out infield single from JD Larimer made it 5-4. Jo Carroll's ground ball to first tied the game and Ryne Clark and Cullen Hendricksen hit back-to-back extra base hits to make it 7-5.
Central Oregon got on the board in the third thanks to a wild pitch and two extra base hits. Carroll scored the first run on a wild pitch after reaching on an error and Jake Azevedo and Nick Wagner clubbed consecutive doubles to make it 3-0.
The Sweets quickly responded with a two-out rally in the third. Kalani Brackenridge singled inside the bag at third with two outs and Paulino scored him with a towering double to deep center.
DJ Smith started for the Sweets and settled down after the third inning. He worked through six innings, allowing just five hits and striking out five. Doug Ashby came on in the seventh and tossed two scoreless innings before being touched up in the ninth. He earned his first win of the summer thanks to the Sweets' three-run rally.
Paulino led the Sweets offense with three hits, all of which were for extra bases, and three RBI. Bonczyk and Robinson each added two hits on the night.
The Sweets and the Bucks continue their three-game series on Saturday night with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch. It is Fleece Blanket Giveaway Night presented by Holiday Inn Express, with the first 750 fans receiving a blanket.