5-error game from Kelowna gives Knights their 8th-straight win

Tate Shimao, #10 of the Knights, makes contact with the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Knights vs. Redmond Dudes game on July 17. The Knights earned a 11-4 victory over the Kelowna Falcons.
Tate Shimao, #10 of the Knights, makes contact with the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Knights vs. Redmond Dudes game on July 17. The Knights earned a 11-4 victory over the Kelowna Falcons.
Morgan Berryman

After suffering an away series loss to the Kelowna Falcons earlier this July, the Corvallis Knights have been yearning to settle the score at home.

With a combination of clutch hitting, dominant pitching, and capitalizing on the mistakes of the Falcons defense, the Knights earned themselves a decisive 11-4 victory on Tuesday night at Goss Stadium.

After a scoreless top of the first, provided by starting pitcher and Portland native, Sam Stuhr, the Knights opened the scoring early in the bottom of the inning.

Knights outfielder JC Ng fired a sharp single to left-center field, followed by infielder Tyler Quinn, who sent a ball into deep center, resulting in a ground-rule double. With two on and no outs, the first error of the night from Kelowna occurred.

Infielder Blake Avila stepped into the batter’s box and popped a ball down the right field line for what seemed like a routine catch. Kelowna right fielder, Sam Flores, ended up dropping the catch, which allowed Ng to score, Quinn to reach third, and Avila to reach second with no outs.

Then after back-to-back sacrifice flies from infielder Ethan Hedges and outfielder Sam Stem, the side was finally retired, but the Knights had an early 3-0 score because of one costly error.

With only one hit being recorded in the second inning, the top of the third is where the Falcons started to gain some traction.

Kelowna outfielder Jacob Devenny led off with a base hit to right field. However, Stuhr subsequently walked the bases loaded on his next nine pitches, eight of those pitches being called balls.

The Kelowna offense subsequently took advantage of the mistake as infielder Griffin Palfrey knocked a single to right field, scoring two runs. Infielder Ryoma Imani followed up Palfrey’s hit with another single to right field, scoring another run.

Consequently, this led to Stuhr’s start being cut short as right-handed pitcher Neil Feist replaced him on the mound, who struck out the final batter of the inning on three pitches.

With the game being tied at three, pressure rose for both sides. Corvallis had a major opportunity in the bottom of the third after Quinn and Avila were walked, followed by an infield error that loaded the bases with only one out.

Falcons pitchers Amane Kondo and Tai Phetluangsy helped Kelowna escape the inning with clutch pitching forcing a strikeout and a flyout.

Ultimately, Ng tipped the scales back in favor of the Knights. In the bottom of the fourth, he knocked a two-out double down the right field line to score outfielder Ethan Hott, who had reached second from a walk and stolen base.

However, the back and forth between these teams persisted. The Falcons got back up to bat in the top of the fifth inning, and designated hitter Garet Crenshaw blasted a solo home run to even things back up 4-4.

The third error for Kelowna happened at the bottom of the fifth. After securing two quick outs, the Falcons looked prepared to retire the Knights lineup headed into the sixth inning, but Stem stepped up and knocked a base hit to center field.

Infielder Tate Shimao stepped to the plate and hit a ground ball towards Kelowna shortstop, Raphael Smeenk, who misread the roll and allowed it to hit off his glove and deflect into left field. This error permitted Stem to reach the third base, where he scored the following at-bat after a single from catcher Anson Aroz and the lead was back in the hands of the Knights.

After the fifth inning, the pitching from Corvallis was airtight as left-handed pitcher Sean Wiese took over in the top of the sixth and dominated the next 2.1 innings. Weise allowed no hits, no walks, and earned three strikeouts.

In the bottom of the sixth, Kelowna sent in left-handed pitcher Troy Shepard who picked up two strikeouts and a weak groundout.

However, at the bottom of the seventh, the Knights took control as Avila led off for Corvallis and hit a leadoff double into right field. Infielder Mason Le stepped in to pinch run for Avila, and then Hedges secured his first hit of the night with a base hit up the middle.

With runners at first and third base, the pressure may have been starting to get to Shepard. Shepard attempted to throw out Hedges at first, but he threw the ball past the first baseman resulting in Le scoring with Hedges moving to second and the Falcons registering their fourth error of the game.

With Stem still waiting in the batter’s box after the error, he took advantage of Shepard’s previous error and hit an RBI double. In the next at-bat, Shimao got hit by a breaking ball and walked to first base.

After the pitch from Shepard hit Shimao, Aroz sent a hard ground ball toward the first baseman advancing Shimao and Stem to second and third. This also gave Kelowna their first out of the inning.

With one out and two players in scoring position, the Falcons made another pitching change, trying to minimize the damage on defense so they could try and make a late comeback on offense. Right-handed pitcher Patrick Barnum was subbed in to complete this task.

Hott had an opportunity to extend the Knight’s lead to five runs, but after two failed bunt attempts, Hott swung and hit a weak ground ball toward Smeenk at shortstop. Smeenk saw Stem trying to rush home and fired a throw at catcher Ryoma Imani to try and secure another out.

Unfortunately, the throw was off by several feet to snag it and make a quick tag; it bounced off of Imani’s glove and rolled to the backstop. This error allowed Stem to score easily and Shimao to score from second, giving Corvallis a 9-4 lead.

With a runner on first and only one out, the inning was still not over as Ng launched a hit over the center fielder’s head to pick up an RBI triple for his final at-bat of the night. After a walk from infielder Tyler Quinn, the Knights scored five runs on four hits in just one inning after Le hit a pop-up to end the seventh inning.

After the first strikeout in the top of the eighth, Wiese was replaced by Jonathan Stone, the six-foot-seven right-handed pitcher from Roseburg, Oregon. Stone proceeded to strike out Imani in three pitches, then forced a fly out to end the inning.

In the final offensive inning for the Knights, Stem pulled a double down the right field line putting another Knights runner in scoring position. Shimao flew out to center field, which advanced Stem to third base.

Aroz stepped up to answer the call, launching an opposite-field two-run home run hit to deep left, scoring Stem and making the score 11-4.

The top of the ninth rolled around, presenting the Falcons with one last chance to make a comeback.

Stone continued to work from the mound, and after forcing an early groundout, he walked Devenny in the next at-bat. However, Smeenk tipped the ball just in front of home plate, resulting in a stunning 2-6-3 (catcher-shortstop-first baseman) double play to end the game.

The Knights take game one in a very intriguing start to this series as both these teams are at the top of their respective divisions and have already played each other in a very close series this season.

There are still two games left to see who will take this series home and for Kelowna to prove themselves once again as a dominant baseball team in the West Coast League.

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    ScottJul 23, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    Shepard wasn’t the pitcher mention in this article for Kelowna. A pitcher on his team borrowed his jersey #34. It was #14 Manato Tateno who pitched, and was behind the events in this article. I only mention because he had his jersey borrowed multiple times, and improper reference was made to Shepard, when it was someone else.