Walla Walla's Christina leads Sweets past Lobos

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WALLA WALLA — Another stellar home pitching performance was turned in by a Walla Walla Sweets’ hurler — this time it was Walla Walla native Drew Christina — here Monday night in a nonleague 9-3 win over the Portland Lobos.

Christina struck out 11 batters in 7 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs while

giving up just two hits and walking five.

“He was good, wasn’t he?” Sweets coach J.C. Biagi said of Christina. “He threw well and that was good for him. He hasn’t got a ton of innings thus far. I think it was really important for him to have a good outing.

“He was still having some command issues here and there. But by and large, he threw an excellent ballgame. Toward the end of it, he probably got a little tired. His pitch count got up there a little bit.”

Christina threw 126 pitches in the game and had a no-hitter going with one out in the eighth inning.

“Seize the moment, prepare well, go out and do your thing,” Christina said of the outing. “Don’t make too much of it, stay in the moment and go try to execute pitches. That is what I tried to do tonight and it worked out well for me.”

Christina gave a run on an RBI infield single by Keenan Hatfield after a previous one-bagger, walk, passed ball and strikeout in that eighth inning before being lifted.

Christina was then charged with two more runs after Mike Paulson relieved and gave up an RBI single to Tucker Campbell and an error on Walla Walla’s John Skrbec.

Walla Walla closer Sean-Luke Brija came in to pitch the ninth, and closed the door as Sweets fans went home happy with two Lobo strikeouts to end the game.

The Sweets built a 9-0 lead with four runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Walla Walla led off the four-run rally with three consecutive walks to load the bases. Jono Herkins, Jared Gonzales and Nick Vilter all coaxed walks off Lobos’ starter Will Waterman.

Herkins scored on a wild pitch, while Gonzales and Vilter moved up on the errant delivery to home plate.

Bret Helton hit a sacrifice fly RBI to score Gonzales, and Luke Persico singled to put runners on the corners.

Persico stole second and the throw sailed into center field, allowing Vilter to score from third.

Scott Silva then singled in Persico from second base and it was 4-0 Sweets after one.

The Sweets tacked on a single run in the second inning on a Gonzales RBI double, scoring Zach Reay — who had reached on a double himself.

The Sweets added one run in the fifth on a Persico single, stolen base, passed ball and wild pitch to make it 6-0 Walla Walla.

In the sixth, Walla Walla’s Helton singled in Gonzales, who had reached on a one base-hit as well.

In between the two singles, Taylor Jones had doubled.

Helton advanced to third on a fielder’s choice when Jones was in a rundown between third and home plate. He then scored on a wild pitch by then Lobo hurler Beau Ueland.

It was 8-0 Sweets after six innings of baseball.

The Sweets’ final run scored on an RBI single by Jake Wylie.

The six-run nonleague Sweets win doesn’t count in the West Coast League standings, but it was good for morale to get back on the winning track after losing three straight on the road to Corvallis last week.

“The thing was, we kind of got our heads down a little bit after that series in Corvallis where we just didn’t play as good as we could,” Christina said. “I didn’t want to do much, but I wanted to go out and try to help get us back to level that we’ve been playing at.

“I wanted to set an example with my actions,” he said. “These guys don’t really need it, they all play hard regardless. But I was glad that I could just contribute to that.”

The Sweets (19-14 WCL, 4-0 nonleague) are now in a tie for first place with Wenatchee and host three games against Cowlitz before Bellingham comes to town for a trio this weekend.

“We’ll get back after it again tomorrow after a tough last half of the road trip,” Biagi said. “But it is good to get back in the win column tonight.”

The Sweets are 13-5 at home and .500 on the road so far this season.

Sweets 9, Lobos 3

Lobos 000 000 030 — 3 3 1

Sweets 410 001 210 — 9 13 2

Waterman, Ueland (6), Suyematsu (8) and Reichenbach. Christina, Paulson (8), Brija (9) and Reay.

Hits — Lobos: Hatfield, Campbell, Bryant; Sweets: Herkins, Gonzales 2, Wylie, Jones, Helton, Persico 3, S. Silva 2, Southall, Reay.

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