After getting bounced around 12-0 by Hanford in the opener, the Kennewick Lions settled down in the nightcap and held off the Falcons 6-5 for their second consecutive Mid-Columbia Conference baseball title Tuesday in Richland.
“The second game was a lot of fun,” said Kennewick coach A.J. Marquardt. “The first game, not so much. Hanford is a good team and they showed that all day. I’m proud of our guys for how they responded after the first game. They could have packed it in.”
The top-ranked Lions (13-1, 19-1 overall) and Falcons (11-3, 17-3) both will host District 5/8 games next Tuesday. Their opponents have not been determined.
“Kennewick played well and they deserved to win,” said Hanford coach Tom DeWitz. “It’s disappointing that we lost, but it was a good game and I have no complaints.”
Hanford, which needed to sweep Kennewick for the MCC title, came out and got the job done in the first game, but fell behind 5-1 in the second game as the Lions’ bats came alive after a four-hit slumber in the opener.
The Falcons got a run on the board in the first as Brady Heid drove in Anthony Porcaro, but Kennewick responded in the second with a pair of runs off a single by Dillon Plew for a 2-1 lead, then tacked on three more in the third.
JJ Hancock, who in the bottom of the second hit his head on the fence in right field snagging a sharply hit ball by Ryan Colson, bounced back for a solo home run and a 3-1 lead.
“That was a nice little 5-minute stretch with a nice catch and then a home run,” Marquardt said.
Larry DeWitt then pushed Dylan Wilbert across the plate with a double, and DeWitt scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
Not ones to be pushed around on their own field, the Falcons struck back in the bottom of the third.
After David Juergens drew a walk and Tyler Cowen flew out, Isaac Benard drove a 3-0 pitch over the wall in the right-center gap to pull the Falcons within 5-3 with his fourth home run of the season.
Porcaro followed with a solo shot that followed the same path as Benard’s homer, and Hanford was back in the game.
An RBI-triple by Heid scored Porcaro in the bottom of the fifth to even things up at 5-5.
“When they got that 5-1 lead, I didn’t panic,” DeWitz said. “I was happy with how Colson was throwing. We had made a couple of errors, but I was confident we would score more runs.”
Sawyer Henry, who came on in relief of Colson in the fourth inning, had one man on and two outs on the board when the wheels fell off in the top of the sixth.
A single and a walk loaded the bases, and on a full count, Henry hit Hancock with a pitch, pushing Malik Sittler across the plate for what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
Nate Mitchell kept the Lions quiet in the seventh, and the Falcons went to work in the bottom of the inning trying to pull even.
Cowen flew out to Hancock in right for the first out, then Kennewick intentionally walked Benard.
Porcaro then laced an 0-2 pitch to Quentin Lafontaine at shortstop. Lafontaine got Benard at second and Porcaro seemed to be safe at first, but the field umpire called interference on Benard, resulting in Porcaro also being out, ending the game.
“From a competitive standpoint, you hate to see the game end that way,” Marquardt said.
In the opener, the Falcons took control from the start, sending 11 men to the plate in the first inning. By the time the third out came around, Hanford had a 8-0 lead — with two runs coming off a two-run homer by Benard over the center-field wall.
“We played a couple of new guys in the lineup,” DeWitz said. “I told them I was going to put my playbook in my pocket and let them have fun.”
Kennewick starter Mark Driver, who has been a rock on the hill for the Lions all season, lasted one inning, giving up eight runs on seven hits while throwing 37 pitches.
“Mark ran into a buzz saw,” Marquardt said. “He will bounce back fine. That’s baseball. We are not concerned.”
Hanford tacked on four more runs in the third inning as Juergens, Porcaro, Heid and Aaron Enderlin all hit RBI-singles.
Jacob Anderson pitch all five innings for Hanford, needing just 43 pitches to improve to 8-1 on the year.
“I was hitting my spots and they were jumping after every pitch,” Anderson said. “They hit it where I wanted them to. We came out ready to play.”
Kennewick 000 00 — 0 4 2
Hanford 804 0x — 12 15 0
Mark Driver, Levi Scantlin (2), Brock Sittman (3) and Dylan Wilbert; Jacob Anderson and Aaron Enderlin. Highlights—Isaac Benard (H) 2x3, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs; Anthony Porcaro (H) 2x3, RBI; Brady Heid (H) 2 RBIs; Enderlin (H) 3x3, RBI; Sawyer Henry (H) 2B, 2 RBIs; Damien Marks (H) 2x3, RBI; Tanner Heiman (H) 2x3, 2 RBIs; David Juergens (H) 2x3, 3B, RBI.
Kennewick 023 001 0 — 6 8 2
Hanford 103 010 0 — 5 7 2
Matt Driver and Dylan Wilbert; Ryan Colson, Sawyer Henry (4), Nate Mitchell (7) and Aaron Enderlin. Highlights—Hancock (K) 2x3, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs; Larry DeWitt (K) 2B, RBI; Quentin Lafontaine (K) 2x3; Dillon Plew (K) 3x3, 2 RBIs; Isaac Benard (H) HR, 2 RBIs; Anthony Porcaro (H) 2x3, 2B, HR, RBI; Brady Heid (H) 2x3, 2B, 3B, 2 RBIs.