The Bellingham Bells won their first West Coast League playoff game in two years thanks to some strong pitching from Eder Erives and Dan Ludwig, as they claimed Game 1 of their Divisional Series at Yakima Valley with a 4-1 victory over the Pippins on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
The series moves to Joe Martin Field for Game 2 on Wednesday, Aug. 13, and Game 3, if needed, on Thursday, Aug. 14.
Erives, the Bells Ace went 6 1/3 strong innings, retired the first nine Yakima Valley batters he faced, struck out six and walked only two.
Once he left with one out in the seventh, Ludwig came on to strike out five of the eight Pippin batters he faced, including the heart of Yakima Valley’s batting order in the ninth inning.
“We didn’t hit many balls hard and we had very few opportunities to score, and we’re a good-hitting team,” Pippins manager Marcus McKimmy told the Yakima Valley Herald. “Erives is a special arm. He has three really good pitches he mixes in very nicely, and when you play against him you know you have a very small margin for error. We knew we’d have to play better than them to win tonight, and we didn’t.”
With that sort of pitching, the Bells didn’t need a whole lot of offense, but Dallas Carroll broke through in the fourth with an opposite-field homer to right field to give the Bells a 1-0 lead.
Scott Heath’s fortunate triple allowed him to score on Danny Miller’s base hit in the sixth to make it 2-0.
The Pippins cut the lead in half in the seventh after Ryan Yamane’s groundout plated Reid Martinez, who led off with a single.
But Walker Olis scored an RBI single past third base in the eighth and Heath added a sacrifice fly in the ninth to put the game away for the Bells.
Now Bellingham will attempt to do something nobody in the WCL has been able to accomplish this season — beat Yakima Valley’s Game 2 starter, Eli Morgan, who is 8-0 with a 3.04 ERA in 10 starts this season.
“I knew we’d either be going over there to clinch (the series), or even if we lost tonight we’d still have a guy going for us who hasn’t lost a game all year and whose teammates play well behind him,” McKimmy said of Morgan.
Bellingham is expected to counter with Aaron Sandefur (5-3, 2.16 ERA) in the 7:05 p.m. game, as it attempts to advance to the WCL Championship Series, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Aug. 16.