Another championship series appearance was well within sight for Corvallis on Wednesday night. Just three outs away.
Now there’s a little more work to do.
Walla Walla rallied from a three-run deficit and scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning to stun the Knights 9-4 in Game 2 of the West Coast League South Divisional baseball series at Goss Stadium.
The Sweets, powered by a Justin Folz grand slam in the ninth, have forced a third and deciding game for a chance to move on. It’s Corvallis and Walla Walla back at Goss on Thursday night for a 6:30 first pitch.
The winner faces Wenatchee or Victoria. Victoria won 7-2 at home to even the North Divisional series at a game apiece. Those teams also conclude their series Thursday.
“It kind of took the air out of us for a little bit in that inning, but tomorrow we’re going to go out and compete. It’s still the same,” Knights standout Jake Holcroft said. “It gives a little bit more fight. We know this team can beat us now. So we want to go out and compete and beat them.”
Knights closer Connor Knutson has come up big for Corvallis (51-13) with five saves this summer. But the University of Portland right-hander wasn’t able to finish the job in the ninth against Walla Walla (36-24).
Knutson gave up three hits, two walks and the six runs while recording just two outs. Folz, thrown out at the plate trying to tie the game to end the top of the eighth inning, got his revenge with his two-out homer to right field as the seventh batter in the inning against Knutson.
Sean Fekete hit a batter and allowed a run-scoring single before getting the final out of the inning on a grounder.
Corvallis, the three-time defending league champion, went down in order in the bottom half.
The Knights won 6-3 at Walla Walla on Tuesday behind Tevita Gerber’s 6⅔ innings on the mound and Jake Harvey’s two-run home run. Holcroft added three hits, two RBIs and a run scored.
Corvallis and Walla Walla split six regular-season matchups, with each team winning three home games.
Wednesday, the Sweets took a 1-0 lead in their first at-bat with consecutive two-out hits, a single and a double.
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The Knights’ three-run rally in the third began with a high Tracye Tammaro pop-up being misplayed by Sweets third baseman Carson Green and landing just inside the foul line. The ball got away from Green and Tammaro, the leadoff batter, went to second base.
Harvey followed with a bunt single, called safe on a bang-bang play with a tag on his helmet. Holcroft brought them both home with a hard liner just inside the first-base bag that went all the way to the right-field corner.
Andy Atwood then drove in Holcroft with a single to right for a 3-1 advantage.
Harvey helped Corvallis tack on a run in the fourth with a two-out double to left to score Michael Curialle, who doubled to right with one away.
Walla Walla finally found some momentum again in the sixth to chase Corvallis starter Jackson Arnsdorf after two singles to open the frame. The Sweets then got another one-bagger and a sacrifice fly against Kevin West in relief to close within 4-3.
West got back to the dugout by catching two straight batters looking at strike three.
Arnsdorf allowed five hits, three earned runs and a walk with three strikeouts.
West, making his team-leading 17th appearance of the season, worked around two walks in the seventh to keep Corvallis in the lead. The Knights couldn’t capitalize on Atwood’s two-out triple in the bottom half.
Following West to open the eighth on the mound, Marques Johnson walked two, the first of which Zack Moeller was thrown out trying to steal second.
With two outs, Green smoked a double to the left-field corner, giving Folz a chance to score from first. But it wasn’t to be, as a relay from Holcroft to shortstop Brooks Lee to catcher Moeller was just in time to get a sliding Folz at the plate.
“Off the bat I wasn’t sure if it was fair or foul. I just went after it because everyone was kind of frozen,” Holcroft said. “When it gone down to the wall I wasn’t sure if it was going to hit off the wall. I was anticipating it hitting and thankfully it did. I got it to Brooks and he did his thing.”
Walla Walla starting pitcher Ryan Johnston, also his team’s leadoff batter, lasted four innings on the mound. His line included six hits and four runs (three earned) with two strikeouts and no walks.