You wouldn’t call Richland’s league schedule “cream puff” coming into Friday’s CBBN 4A doubleheader with Walla Walla.
Then again, it wasn’t exactly “rock-hard abs,” either.
So the Bombers’ 6-4, 4-2 sweep of the Blue Devils served notice that the road to state runs through Bomber Field.
“Every game counts,” said Richland left fielder Elijah Gardaya, who went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and reached base all six trips to the plate. “But starting with this, our whole season got a lot tougher.”
Dylan Klute slugged a two-run home run in the first inning and Dalton Johnson cracked a two-run double in the sixth to back Levi Broeske’s effort on the mound in the opener.
Mason Hilty came on in the seventh to close that game, then went the distance in Game 2, working around six hits by striking out six and not walking anyone.
Richland took advantage of three straight Wa-Hi errors to start the second inning to get out to a four-run lead.
“I get more comfortable,” Hilty said of getting that early lead, “and then I got more ground balls at the beginning of the game.”
The wins combined with Wenatchee’s sweep of Davis on Friday (1-0 and 2-1) means the Bombers (13-3) and Panthers (12-2) are unbeaten at 8-0 in league heading into Tuesday’s pair at Wenatchee.
Coming into Friday’s games, Richland’s CBBN 4A opponents were a combined 1-23 in league. So sweating out a pair against the Blue Devils was proper preparation to face the Panthers.
Richland had given away its early three-run lead in the opener and trailed by a run heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Gibson McGeorge led off with high-hopper up the middle for a single, and Gardaya worked his way from an 0-2 count — trying to sacrifice bunt — to a free pass to first.
Hunter Chambers then bunted the runners up, and Johnson delivered the lead with a double to the gap in left-center, his second two-bagger of the game hitting out of the nine hole.
He would score on Corey Morris’ single, giving the Bombers some insurance before Hilty came on for a 1-2-3 seventh, saving the win after Broeske’s six innings of four-hit ball.
The two teams combined for seven errors in the first game, and the troubles for continued for Walla Walla (5-3, 11-5) during that four-run second inning in the nightcap.
Ironically, Richland was trying to give away outs — a botched sacrifice bunt, a dropped sac fly — but the Blue Devils kept giving them back.
Wa-Hi chipped away with a run in the third and fourth innings. But Hilty set down the last nine he faced.
Those four unearned runs were the only blemishes on an otherwise outstanding start for Walla Walla sophomore Adam Matthews, who only struck out one but didn’t give up any free bases and avoided trouble the rest of the game.
Richland coach Ben Jacobs said he felt fortunate to get the sweep but felt a little uneasy about his team’s play.
“With this team, I’m not sure a lead ever feels good,” he said. “We tend to maybe lose our focus at the plate.”
But in the next sentence, he said he is not at all surprised by the Bombers’ strong performance thus far.
“To be honest with you, we should be better,” he said. “We gave away two games — we should have one loss. I’m not sure how good we are.”
Walla Walla 002 101 0 — 4 4 3
Richland 210 003 x — 6 8 4
Luke Reardon and Taylor Lemke; Levi Broeske, Mason Hilty (7) and Corey Morris. Highlights—Josh Eggers (WW) RBI 3B, R; Lemke (WW) 2x3, 2B, RBI, R; Morris (R) 2x4, RBI, R; Josh Klute (R) 2x4, 2-R HR; Dalton Johnson (R) 2x3, 2-R 2B.
Walla Walla 001 100 0 — 2 6 4
Richland 040 000 x — 4 8 1
Adam Matthews and Lemke; Hilty and Morris. Highlights—Daniel Lake (WW) 2x4, 2B, R; Cody Furstenberg (WW) 2x2, RBI, R; Elijah Gardaya (R) 3x3, 2B, RBI, R.