Max Beatty carried a perfect game into the seventh, finished with eight strong and the Corvallis Knights withstood a ninth inning rally from the Walla Walla Sweets to even the three-game series with a 3-2 win on Saturday Night at Borleske Stadium.
Beatty, a right-hander from Pacific Lutheran, was perfect through 6.2 innings before giving up back-to-back singles to Chance Kopacz and Austin Heaps in the seventh. He worked out of that jam and handed a 3-1 lead to his bullpen. That's when it got interesting.
The Knights summoned quirky right-hander Eric Young to close the door in the ninth and he promptly walked the first two batters. Young recorded an out via a failed bunt with two strikes before allowing a single to Heaps that loaded the bases. Hitless on the night, but battling at the plate, Goose Kallunki followed with a single to right that scored Alex Bonczyk (leadoff walk). A pop out to second followed and brought Alex Stanford to the plate. He hit the first pitch hard but right at the second baseman Corey Moore. More like a goalie than an infielder, Moore wore the ball of his right shoulder, recovered and threw out a diving Stanford by half a hand at first to end the ballgame.
While the Sweets made their final at-bat exciting, the lead up wasn't what they hoped for. While Beatty was writing his masterpiece, the Sweets put themselves in a hole in the third inning with a pair of mental lapses. A leadoff ground ball to second was fielding easily but throw to first wasn't in time to beat a hustling Dane Lund. They very next play didn't help either as what looked to be a force out at second base was nullified when the base umpire ruled that Stanford did not touch the bag during the turn. Walla Walla made it even worse on the next play as Brett Watson threw a sacrifice bunt down the left field line, allowing a run to score and another runner to move to third. That runner would eventually score and the Sweets found themselves in a hole they would never climb out of.
The rough third inning overshadowed an otherwise superb outing from Watson. The returnee was making his Sweet debut after missing last season with a shoulder injury. After the errant throw, he settled down and allowed just one hit over the next four innings. Watson left after a leadoff double in the seventh and finished the night allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and he struck out four.
Beatty was just too much for the Sweets. He located his pitches magnificently throughout the evening and induced ground ball after ground ball. In all, he retired 12 batters via ground outs and his only bad pitch of the night ended up beyond the right field wall. It was 0-1 fastball on the inner half of the plate, waist high, that Stanford turned and deposited over the Del Taco sign in right field. Unfazed, Beatty struck out the final two batters in the inning to end his night with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Although the Sweets made three errors on the night, there was a very impressive play made by Brackenridge at second base. Sean Myrom's ground ball was destined for right field in the fourth but Brackenridge raced to his left, dove, caught the ball and while tumbling onto his back, flipped the ball to Kallunki at first base to just get the runner.
Sweets right-hander Derek Peterson saw his first action of the year as he replaced Watson with a runner on in the seventh. He pitched the final three innings, allowing two hits. Heaps finished with two of the Sweets' five hits, while Myrom was the lone Knight with two hits.
The two teams finish their three-game weekend series on Sunday with a first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Trent Allianic will face Chris Johnson in the rubber match.