WALLA WALLA — NWAACC Eastern Region co-leader Walla Walla Community College and Yakima Valley had much in common heading into their league baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Warrior Field.
Both teams had won four straight games, were 7-3 in their previous 10 contests and the two squads split a doubleheader earlier this season in Yakima.
On this day, spiced with strong, gusty winds and threatening skies, WWCC would register a pair of walk-off victories as it continues its quest for a division crown.
Jarod Gonzales looped a two-out, RBI single into right field in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one to give Walla Walla a 10-9 victory.
The Warriors rallied from three late deficits in the nightcap to post an 8-7 in 11 innings.
WWCC, No. 8 in the latest NWAACC coaches poll, raised its record to 12-4 and is 21-5 overall. YVC drops to 9-7 and 17-13.
The Warriors jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of game one. Trevor Jones slapped a two-run triple into the right-center alley to finish the rally.
YVC battled back with a run in the second inning and two more in the third to nudge itself within one, 4-3.
The Warriors responded with a three spot in the home third on a three-run double to right field off the bat of Seth Wolfe that brought the WWCC lead back up to four, 7-3.
A stalemate ensued over the next four-plus innings before Yakima got itself back in contention with three runs in the eighth.
But Walla Walla got two back in the last half of the eighth on a YVC error and took a 9-6 lead into the ninth inning.
Yakima Valley evened the score with three runs in its half of the ninth and set the stage for walk-off win No. 1.
Trevor Jones led off the Warrior ninth with a walk, moved to second base on an errant pickoff throw by YVC reliever Landon Messmore, and advanced to third on a Corey Morris sacrifice bunt.
With two out, Wolfe walked and Gonzales followed with his game-winning base knock.
“Games often come down to execution,” WWCC coach Dave Meliah said. “You need to execute when you put runners in scoring position.”
WWCC’s Kalani Omoto and Yakima Valley’s Ross Tassara were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first six innings of game two. Yakima held a 1-0 lead entering the seventh.
“Kalani mixed his speeds, threw strikes, kept the ball down and kept us in it,” Meliah said.
YVC scored twice in frame seven before Walla Walla scored its first run in the last half of the inning on a Morris sacrifice fly to crawl within two, 3-1.
Yakima Valley tallied one in the eighth and appeared poised for the split.
Not so fast.
The Warriors knotted the score at four with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to force bonus panels. Jarod Paul drove in the first run with a single, the second crossed the plate on an error and the equalizer was chased home on a sac fly to center by Wolfe.
Both teams put up a deuce in the 10th inning. WWCC’s Dane Crater tied the game at 6-6 on a two-out, two-run homer that just eluded the reach of a leaping Yakima Valley left fielder Ryan Leone.
“That’s the kind of kid he is,” Meliah said. “He doesn’t panic and goes about his business. (Leone) almost made an incredible catch.”
Yakima scored once in the 11th inning to take a 7-6 edge.
In the Walla Walla 11th, Moe Handcox reached base on a bunt single, scooted into second on a throwing error by YVC third baseman Jake Manson and scored on a double to right-center by Wolfe.
After intentional walks to Gonzales and J.J. Robinson, Clayten Ayres dropped a single into center that set off a wild celebration for Warrior players and fans alike.
“It was the most unbelievable experience I’ve ever had on a baseball field,” Meliah said. “This doubleheader showed the fight that both teams have.
“I’m excited for the guys,” Meliah said. “They work hard and don’t mind being pushed. To enjoy something like that is special.”
WWCC continues league play at Wenatchee Wednesday.
Game 1 Boxscore
Game 2 Boxscore