Summer is a long season for American Legion baseball, and it is far too early in Central Washington League play to get too fired up over a sweep of a league rival.
But the Hanford Flames had a lot to smile about Tuesday night after sweeping the Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak 5-3 and 11-8 at Waits Field.
“This was very nice,” said Flames third baseman Ryan Neal, who hammered a three-run home run and had five RBIs in the second game. “Everyone was swinging the stick right, and the pitchers were throwing a lot of ground balls and fly balls.”
The first-place Flames improved to 5-1 in CWL play after taking the front end of a home-and-home doubleheader with the Pak — the two teams meet again at 5:30 p.m. today at Carlon Park in Selah.
Bear Braich went the distance in the opener for the Flames despite giving up nine hits, including a pair of solo homers and three doubles.
“One home run I left up, the other home run he just stuck his bat out there and it went over the fence,” Braich said. “I just kept throwing my splitter.”
He only walked two and struck out six batters, two of those after giving up a leadoff double seventh. It was the second straight inning the Pak doubled to open an inning and came away empty.
“Dude, he throws the kitchen sink up there, but he’s a competitor,” said Hanford coach Nat Roe, who emphasized his team’s execution of several hit-and-run plays, stolen bases and two-out hits.
Jacob Browne and Cody Kowalski each had two-out, RBI hits for the Flames in the third inning to retake the lead in the opener, 3-2. Jalen DeVine’s two-out single in the fifth plated two more and provided the winning margin.
Hanford pounded out 13 hits in the second game, including a double and homer for Neal, a triple for Brennan Sutey and a double by Peter Hanson.But they eye-popping plays came in the field.
The Flames completed the most unconventional of double plays in the third on a single to left with the bases load. The runner on third scored easily, but the second runner was gunned down on a perfect relay of Jake Oram to AJ Hoskins to Browne.
After tagging the runner at home, Browne alertly fired down to third base to nail the runner from first trying to take an extra bag on the throw home. “That’s what makes me like baseball right there, plays like that,” Neal said.
Hanford came back with four runs in the bottom of the third for an 8-3 lead. The Pak was threatening again in the fourth with the bases loaded and one out, but Kyle LaFon got his only two strikeouts of the day to kill the rally.
“That was the game right there,” Roe said.
Yakima Valley 101 100 0 — 3 9 4
Hanford 012 020 x — 5 6 2
Noel Gonzalez, Koleman Johns (4) and Ben Wells; Bear Braich and Jacob Browne. Highlights—Chris Walker (YV) HR; Hugo Lemus (YV) 2x4; Steve Wagar (YV) 2B; John Piper (YV) 3x4, 2B, HR; Wells (YV) 2B; Braich (H) 7IP-9H-3R-2ER-2BB-2HBP-6K; Browne (H) 2x3, 2 RBI, 3R; Cody Kowalski (H) RBI 2B; Jalen DeVine (H) 2 RBI.
Yakima Valley 102 010 4 — 8 7 0
Hanford 314 030 x — 11 13 2
Wagar, Wells (5) and Walker; Kyle LaFon, Cory Fennell (5) and Browne. Highlights—Walker (YV) 3x4, RBI; Nate Sorensen (YV) 2x4; AJ Hoskins (H) 1x1, 3 BB, 3R; Finn McMichael (H) 2x4, 2 RBI, 2R; Ryan Neal (H) 3x3, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2R; Browne (H) 2B, RBI; Kowalski (H) 2x4; Brennan Sutey (H) 3B; Peter Hanson (H) 2x4, 2B, 2R.