Here’s a look at how the Wenatchee summer collegiate baseball franchise has fared in West Coast League Championship Series play:
2010: Wenatchee beat Bend 2-1
2009: Wenatchee beat Corvallis 2-0
2008: Corvallis beat Wenatchee 2-0
2006: Wenatchee beat Spokane 2-0
2005: Wenatchee beat Bellingham 2-0
Source: Bruce Bennett, Wenatchee AppleSox statistician
WENATCHEE — The smallest guy on the field came up with the big blow that vaulted the Wenatchee AppleSox to a second consecutive West Coast League championship.
Kalei Hanawahine, all 5-foot-8 of him, hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie Game 3, and the Sox went on to beat the Bend Elks 6-5 to claim their fourth league title in six seasons.
“I knew it was a game-changing moment,” said Hanawahine, who hadn’t hit a home run since his high school days in Hawaii. “Crossing home plate with all my teammates waiting there was a great moment. Just a huge boost of adrenaline.”
The delirium that spread through the 1,167 in attendance at Paul Thomas Sr. Field after Hanawahine’s home run was nearly equal to the jubilation that came after Jeff Ames blew away Bend pinch-hitter Lucas Shaw for the final out of the game.
The go-ahead run didn’t cross the plate until the fifth inning, but Hanawahine’s home run brought the AppleSox on level footing after they trailed 5-2, and gave the whole team a shot in the arm.
“It was a new game from then on. We started over,” said Wenatchee pitcher Zach Gallagher, who went seven innings for his second victory of the postseason.
After surrendering four runs in the second inning, Gallagher got stronger as the game went on, and the Elks noticed.
“A couple of our guys came back to the dugout after facing him for the second or third time and said, ‘This isn’t the same guy I faced the first time up,’” Bend manager Sean Kinney said of Gallagher, who registered seven of his eight strikeouts from the fifth through seventh innings. “His slider was much better, and he was really letting it go.”
Gallagher is the only player that was on the field at Goss Stadium last summer when the AppleSox swept Corvallis for the WCL title.
The University of Hawaii senior-to-be said that winning the championship at home was more fulfilling.
“Both titles are phenomenal, but getting to dogpile in front of our great crowd here made this one 10 times better,” he said. “It was a great way to end it.”
Wenatchee took a 1-0 lead on Collin Bennett’s RBI single in the first inning but were in trouble in the second, as the defensive woes that plagued the team all summer seemed set to rear their heads at the worst possible time.
Gallagher walked Riley Tompkins to lead off the frame, and Garrett Queen moved him to second with a single to left. Evan Busby walked to load the bases with nobody out, but Gallagher got Austin Karraker to hit a ground ball to Sox first baseman Eric Peterson, who made a quick, accurate throw home.
But the ball bounced out of catcher Maxx Garrett’s glove, allowing Tompkins to score.
Gallagher induced a comebacker on the next pitch, but Garrett again had trouble handling the throw home. As he was pivoting to throw on to first for the 1-2-3 double play, the ball popped out again.
The out at home was recorded, but the rally continued.
With one out, Donald Collins hit a two-run double over Hanawahine’s head in left field, scoring two runs. An RBI groundout by Peter Lavin made it 4-1 Bend, and silenced the crowd.
“Those things happen in baseball, and you have to battle through them,” said Gallagher. “Nobody was worried.”
Bend increased its lead to 5-2 on Collins’ RBI double in the top of the fourth. It was his third hit of the game after going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in Monday’s Game 2.
But the AppleSox, who had swung the bats well against Bend starter James Nygren to that point, got runners on first and second in their half of the fourth to set up Hanawahine.
“My first two at-bats didn’t go so well, but I tried to stay positive and not chase anything,” he said. “I got a fastball up in the zone and got some good wood on it.”
“I was telling the runners to get all they could, because I don’t think anyone thought it was going out,” Wenatchee manager Ed Knaggs said of Hanawahine’s blast, which cleared the right-center field wall.
A rejuvenated Sox lineup kept up the pressure in the fifth. Peterson hit a one-out double to the opposite field, and after a groundout, Wenatchee caught a break when Bend third baseman Andy Hunter pulled Tompkins off the bag at first on Trevor Brown’s grounder, which allowed Peterson to score the go-ahead run.
Gallagher cruised from there and handed the ball to Ames.
“We would have thrown him for three innings if we had to,” Knaggs said of Ames, who hit 97 miles per hour in striking out four of the six batters he faced for the two-inning save.
But it was Hanawahine’s homer that turned the tide for Wenatchee.
“He was the only one that took extra hitting today, and he told me that he was going to pick me up tonight,” Gallagher said of his buddy. “It came at the right time.”
Brian Adamowsky: 664-7157