GRESHAM, Ore. — Walla Walla first-year coach Jason Speer has said all along that pitching would be one of his team’s strengths in 2019.
And it was pitching, particularly that of sophomores Brayde Hirai and Michael Peterson, that stemmed the tide of a prolonged losing streak and lifted the Warriors to a doubleheader sweep of Mount Hood here Sunday and their first two victories of a so-far upsidedown baseball season.
Hirai scattered six hits and allowed just one run over five effective innings as WWCC tipped the Saints 2-1 in Sunday’s second game to complete the sweep.
Peterson was even better as he worked seven innings, allowed five hits, one run and struck out nine as the Warriors beat Mount Hood 5-1 in the first game, putting an end to a discouraging 10-game losing streak to begin the season.
It had to be particularly satisfying for Speer, who grew up in Gresham, played at Mount Hood and was also a Saints assistant coach before making his way to Walla Walla in 2014, initially as an assistant baseball coach and for the last three seasons the Warriors’ head softball coach.
A pair of former Wa-Hi Blue Devils, Turner Edwards and Nick Zehner, pitched out of the bullpen in Sunday’s second game. Edwards tossed a scoreless sixth inning and Zehner did likewise in the seventh, picking up his first save of the season.
Spencer Schwehr worked two innings of scoreless relief in support of Peterson.
The Warriors managed just four singles — one each by Carson Green, Brandon Wagstaff, Kyle Corrigan and Cooper Larson — in the first game. Wagstaff and Larson scored runs and Green was credited with the team’s lone run batted in.
But the bats came alive in the second game as Walla Walla pounded out nine hits, led by Green’s double, two singles and two RBIs. Wyatt Baldwin doubled and singled, scored twice and knocked in a run. And Lane Hailey doubled home a run and also scored while Larson contributed a hit and an RBI.
Sunday’s sweep came on the heels of a pair of games at Lower Columbia College in Longview in which WWCC’s early season defensive shortcomings continued in a pair of lopsided defeats. The Warriors made three errors in an 11-2 loss in the first game and kicked the ball five times in a 10-3 loss in the second.
Despite the errors, however, only four of the 21 runs WWCC pitchers yielded in Saturday’s games were of the unearned variety.
Lower Columbia’s Shane Jamison and Tommy Davis hammered home runs in the first game. Jamison also singled twice and knocked in three runs and Davis added a triple and scored three times.
Hirai, Hailey, Christian Berry and Sergio Midili accounted for WWCC’s only hits with a single apiece. Midili and Green drove in runs and Corrigan and Hailey scored them.
The offensive highlight for the Warriors in the second game was Wagstaff’s solo home run, the first round-tripper of the season for WWCC. Baldwin had three singles and an RBI and Elliott Marks singled twice and scored a run.
Colin Floyd belted a two-run homer for the Red Devils, Jamison singled three times, scored twice and knocked in a run, and Davis smacked an RBI double..
The Warriors, who are now 2-10 on the season, have played their entire schedule so far on the road west of the Cascades because of the snowfall that has blanketed eastern Washington. Weather permitting, they’ll take the field at home this weekend when they are scheduled to host Bellevue Saturday at 11 a.m. and Shoreline Sunday at 11:30 in a pair non-league twin bills.
Walla Walla is slated to open its NWAC East Region season at home March 27 vs. Spokane in a 1 p.m. doubleheader.