Heading into game two, the emotion and buildup from the regular season could be felt heading into Joe Martin Stadium. Jim Clem, head coach of the Bells, knew what his team and the fans were capable of bringing to what would become a hard-fought 5-3 win for Bellingham.
“Our guys feed off the energy, our fans have been terrific, second to none. Our guys just love playing for them. I think it will be an electric night.”
Both starting pitchers got off to the start they were hoping for when coming into the game, with each of them getting through three innings flawlessly to keep the score deadlocked at 0-0.
“That has been the formula for us all summer, it starts with pitching, they’ve been very consistent. We’ve hung our hat on our defense, and then our hitting has gotten better as the year has gone on,” Clem said.
After watching two perfect games coincide for three innings, both lineups tuned in on their second rotation through the lineup.
The offense for the Bells was able to get rolling after Swaim surrendered his first run of the game. Immediately answering back and taking the lead when Cole Yoshida sent a line drive 99 MPH off of his bat into left field, scoring Andrew Valdez and Daryl Ruiz after the hard-hit ball was misplayed. Allowing Yoshida to coast into 3rd base easily. In four innings of play, the score was 2-1 in favor of Bellingham.
The fifth inning would be Everett Swaim’s last. After allowing two batters to reach base, the Bells turned to Sheldon Egger out of the bullpen to get the final two outs of the inning.
Unfortunately, back-to-back suicide squeeze attempts would prove beneficial for the Falcons. The first run was scored after the ball was just out of reach for Garner Christensen after he blocked a ball in the turf. Although the bunt attempt failed, the runner scored on a close play at the plate, stealing home successfully.
The following run was scored on a successful suicide squeeze attempt. Tilting the odds back in Kelowna’s favor, 3-2.
Christensen went on to set the Bells offense up for success in the home half of the fifth after a sacrifice bunt attempt was executed perfectly, resulting in a base hit and placing Nate Kirkpatrick on 3rd base with no outs. Coleman Schmidt cashed in on the RBI opportunity with a sac fly to score Kirkpatrick and make the score even.
Sheldon Egger went on to create a shutout inning in the next frame, putting the Bells in position to take the lead.
And Daryl Ruiz led off the inning by doing just that. A 334-foot blast to start the inning gave the Bells a 4-3 advantage over the Falcons.
“I was just trying to put a ball in play and get a rally going because I was leadoff that inning, so I knew just to get on base and hopefully let the people behind me work, I just happened to run into a barrel,” Ruiz said.
Running into a barrel is putting it loosely. Ruiz fought off a 1-2 pitch and sent it higher than the space needle to decide the game.
In the seventh inning, Coleman Schmidt followed suit with a solo blast of his own. Adding an insurance run with a 314-foot home run. Heading into the eighth inning, Bellingham fans could sense that they were six outs away from the North Division Championship.
Marques Brown has been an elite addition to the bullpen. The 6’3 righty has 90 MPH coming from a side-arm slot, and hitters in the West Coast League have not been able to figure him out to this point. He boasts a 0.00 ERA across four outings after delivering two shutout frames to keep the score at 5-3.
Will Franklin got the opportunity to put the game away and wasted little time. A 1-2-3 inning gives Franklin the save and sends the Bells to Victoria to take on the Harbourcats in a one-game winner-take-all affair at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, August 12.