The Corvallis Knights extended their season Wednesday night, defeating the Yakima Valley Pippins 8-4 in game two of a West Coast League divisional playoff series at Goss Stadium.
The game went back and forth early but the Knights took the lead for good in the sixth inning, going up 6-4 behind RBI hits from big bats Matt Kelly and Jordan Qsar.
“We started off a little slow on the offensive side,” Kelly said. “It was just one of those things where we stuck with it and we were able to get it done when we needed to.”
After winning the West Coast League’s South Division in both the first and second halves of the season, the Knights found themselves up against it, facing playoff elimination.
Corvallis lost to Yakima 9-3 in game one of the series on the road Tuesday and needed a win to stay alive. It was the Pippins' first playoff win as a franchise.
It was the Knights' eighth game in seven days.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Chad Stevens, Taylor Travess, Kelly and Qsar put together consecutive base hits, scoring two runs and giving the Knights a 6-4 advantage.
Corvallis never looked back.
Knights starting pitcher Trenton Toplikar settled into an excellent outing, allowing just four hits through seven innings. The Pippins were only able to manage unearned runs or runs via sacrifice and never recorded an RBI hit in the game.
“He comes out and fills up the zone,” said Kelly of Toplikar. “I think he had one walk through 20-something innings all year. We were able to play defense when we needed to other than (the third inning). We let a couple balls through, and he had a couple passed balls. But he didn’t let that affect him for the rest of the game and he was able to stay on top.”
The Knights added two insurance runs in the eighth as Dillan Shrum drove in Travess who reached base five times in the game and scored twice.
“Especially in the second half of the year Taylor (Travess) has been incredible for us from the number one spot in the lineup,” Kelly said. “That’s the kind of guy he is, he finds a way to get on. Whether it’s a drag bunt, a base knock, or a walk, he just finds a way to get it done.”
On Shrum’s hit, Brad Beasley, the Pippins’ second baseman, overthrew first base and Kelly scored on the error.
Hazahel Quijada relieved Toplikar and pitched two scoreless innings, recording the save.
A win means a game-three rubber match at Goss at 6:40 p.m. Thursday. The winner will advance to play the Victoria HarbourCats, who ousted the Kelowna Falcons in the first round with an 11-5 road win Wednesday.
Corvallis got on the scoreboard in the second inning as Zak Taylor knocked a ball into the parking lot on a ground rule double, then scored as Elliot Willy followed suit with a two bagger of his own.
Willy scored from third as Stevens snuck a well hit ground ball through the infield to make it 2-0.
Travess was then hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases for Kelly. Kelly delivered a high fly ball to right field that scored Troy Claunch on a tag.
The Pippins answered in the third.
JT Strickler and Tyler Bosetti opened the inning with singles. Strickler scored on a fielding error made by Toplikar as Tora Otsuka hit a ball softly toward first that Toplikar fielded, but was never able to get in his glove.
Two wild pitches and one unearned run later, Beasley drove in Otsuka on a sacrifice fly to right field that tied the game at 3-3.
Corvallis took the lead back in the fourth as Jace Duty scored from second on a shot to the gap in right-center field hit by Stevens, his second RBI of the game.
The Pippins matched in the sixth as Otsuka scored from third on an RBI ground-out from Steve Sordahl before the Knights made their run.