KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – For the second-straight night, the Gems pitching staff was dominant, striking out 10 and allowing just six hits as they shutout the Sweets 2-0 on Saturday night at Kiger Stadium.
The Gems (13-19) have now won 11 of their last 12 and have posted back-to-back shutouts of the Sweets (14-19). It is the third consecutive loss for Walla Walla and it is its first series loss since dropping three-of-four to Kelowna in June.
On Saturday, Gems starter Mitch Merten and Sweets starter Tyler Roberts locked horns in a pitcher's duel. Merten got the better of the battle, picking up five strikeouts and limiting the Sweets to just three hits over six scoreless innings. The combination of Brandon Williams, Nathan Bunch and Josh Graham out of the bullpen was enough to close the door.
Roberts was just as good, gutting out seven innings to match his longest outing of the summer. The right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits and issued three walks. Of the seven hits, just three of them reached the outfield. He was also helped by his defense, as the Sweets turned a season-high three double plays on the night.
Like they did on Friday, the Gems got on the board in the first. Nick Armenta started the game with a leadoff infield single, went to second on an errant pickoff and to third on a wild pitch. He scored the first run of the game on a Jake Whisler ground ball to short.
Klamath Falls tacked on a second run in the fourth inning. A single, walk and another infield single loaded the bases with no outs but Shane Zeile turned a possible two-run hit into a excellent 5-3 double play. He slid to his right along the third base line, fielded the ball, touched the bag and threw across the diamond. A run scored on the play but the twin killing prevented a much bigger inning.
From there, it was the pitchers that took over. Roberts finished with three scoreless innings, getting help from a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth. Merten and Williams faced the minimum over the middle innings for the Gems and the Sweets left runners on in each of the eighth and ninth innings.
Walla Walla had an early chance to get on the board in the first inning but came up empty-handed. Zeile and O'Neil connected on consecutive singles, with O'Neil taking second on a throwing error from the center fielder. With runners on second and third and two outs, Merten came back to get a big strikeout to end the inning. Brett Jacobs knocked a two-out double in the second but was stranded at second and was left at second again in the ninth after a leadoff single.
Luke West tossed a scoreless eighth inning for the Sweets, picking up a pair of strikeouts. Kalani Brackenridge extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single through the left side in the eighth inning.
The Sweets will look to salvage a game in the series on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. Joe Arlt will get the ball.