By Walla Walla Sweets
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Tyler Qualls's fly to right in the top of the ninth hit the right field fair pole and gave Kelowna a stunning 5-4 comeback over the Sweets on Thursday night at Borleske Stadium.
The loss mathematically eliminates the Sweets (20-27) from the playoffs and keeps the Falcons (27-23) playoff hopes alive as they trail Bellingham by just 2.5 games.
Trailing 4-3 in the ninth, Kyle Moses beat out a ground ball to short to start the rally with one out and Qualls followed with a line drive to right that just caromed off the right field pole for a two-run home run. The Sweets went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.
The loss ruined what would have been a spirited come-from-behind victory for the Sweets. They trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh but finally came to life. Marc Garza started the inning with a single, Jarrod Turner walked and Ben Ruff doubled down the left field line to make it 3-1 and put runners on second and third. The Falcons summoned Cale Coshow from the bullpen and Kris Promptly blasted his first pitch deep over the wall in right to give the Sweets a 4-3 lead.
Kelowna built its lead with runs in three separate innings. A pair of walks and a Preston Gray single scored the first run in the second and a pair of triples helped score two more. Jerry McClanahan tripled to start the sixth and scored on a Tucker Alexander single to make it 2-0. Qualls then tripled with two outs in the seventh and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Hunter Virant started for the Sweets and allowed just one run on three hits over five innings. He walked four and struck out six in a no decision. Luke West allowed two runs over two innings and Connor Lawhead pitched a scoreless eighth thanks to a big 4-6-3 double play. Ruff suffered his third loss, second against Kelowna, of the summer. Paulino, Shane Zeile and Garza all finished with two hits. It was Paulino's first home run of the year and Zeile's fourth consecutive multi-hit game.
The Sweets and Falcons continue their four-game series on Friday with a first pitch at 7:05 p.m. Zach Brandon will start for the Sweets.