BELLINGHAM - Of all the ways to lose a game, Bellingham was snake bitten by the fake to third, throw to first pick-off play.
It wasn't the move itself. The idea worked, but the execution failed.
Medford scored all three of its runs thanks to a pair of Bellingham fundamental errors after Bells starting pitcher Nick Baker alertly caught Medford base runners off guard multiple times. But a throwing error and a dropped ball cost Bellingham a 3-2 West Coast League loss Wednesday night, July 31, at Joe Martin Field.
The Rogues scored two of their runs in the top of the third with the bases loaded and two outs. Baker tried his pick-off move to get Medford runner Parker Miles cheating off the bag too far at first. Baker froze Miles with the fake throw to third, and Bells first basemen Eric Angerer could have easily applied a tag, but Baker's throw went wide.
The Bells overcame that mistake, but a dropped ball in the top of the eighth by catcher Jake Bailey with the score tied at 2 was too much to overcome. Baker went to his move again with runners on the corners and got the Rogues' runner at first in a pickle. When Medford's runner on third, Spencer Smith, broke for home, Bellingham catcher Jake Bailey received the ball at least five steps before Smith reached the plate, except Bailey couldn't hang on to the ball.
"We didn't play catch," Bells manager Gary Hatch said. "We had the guys picked off, little fundamental things you got to be able to do."
The errant plays overshadowed a brilliant outing by Baker, who kept Bellingham in the game with 8 1/3 innings of six-hit ball. He also struck out 11 batters, and all three of his runs were unearned.
"The pitching has just been tremendous," Hatch said.
One night after leaving 14 runners on base, Bellingham kept 12 stranded Wednesday. Michael Annunziata flew out to center field with the bases loaded and two outs with Bellingham trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth. Johnny Sewald followed by striking out in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third with two outs.
Bellingham has now suffered back-to-back losses after reaching the top of the WCL North Division standings. To Hatch, it boils down to timely hitting,
"We're just not clutching up," he said. "We got to be able to hit the ball out of the infield, and we're just not doing it."
Bells shortstop Johnny Farrington turned in a fine performance. The player Bellingham bills "the human highlight reel," reached base four out of five times, drawing three walks and a base hit, and also made a heads-up hustle play to tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the bottom of the seventh.
Pinch hitter Jake Meggs hit a potential double play ball up the middle with one out in the inning but beat the attempt to throw him out at first. Meanwhile, Farrington raced all the way from second to home, sliding safe before Medford catcher Nico Pacheco's tag.
"That's a guy who understands the game," Hatch said of Farrington.
Sewald was the only Bell to record a multi-hit game. He went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored.
Bellingham rounds out its three-game set with Medford at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at Joe Martin Field.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
MEDFORD 3, BELLINGHAM 2
Medford 002 000 010 - 3 7 1
Bellingham 100 000 100 - 2 9 1
WP: Brandon Williams. LP: Nick Baker. Highlights: Bells: Johnny Sewald 2-5, R; Johnny Farrington 1-2, R, 3BB; Eric Angerer 1-3, RBI.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.