WENATCHEE – Landon Schirer blew his first save of the season after giving up a go-ahead two-run bomb to Kyle Manzardo in the top of the ninth, but Connor Kiffer bailed him out in the home half.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Maple Valley native lined a single to right to drive in both runners and walk off Portland 7-6, completing the three-game sweep over the Pickles. Wenatchee (24-21, 12-6) has now won four straight and sit atop the North standings with nine league games remaining in the regular season.
“Honestly (Trent Bixby) was throwing firm, I was trying to shorten my swing and get something in the outfield,” Kiffer told broadcaster Joel Norman postgame. “I got good barrel on it and then Trent (Sellers) came hauling around and scored. That was pretty fun.”
Blake Klassen drew a leadoff walk to start the ninth and then moved into scoring position on another free pass to Hunter Montgomery. Sellers hit into a fielders choice, which put runners on the corners, but then stole second to set up Kiffer – who came through with his biggest moment in an AppleSox uniform.
“The Sox are hot, let’s go,” head coach Kyle Krustangel commented to Norman as he walked into the booth. “Connor is on this team for a reason and I’ve seen that swing for two straight years against me down in Yakima. Right guy, right spot. Nothing phases that guy.”
A go-ahead home run in the ninth often deflates the team that gave it up, but not the AppleSox.
“(There was) no panic,” Krustangel said. “Our offense had been punching back and we knew we wouldn’t go down without a fight.”
When asked if he had any doubts about waving Sellers around to score, Krustangel said no chance.
“One hundred percent we were going. Probably 9-out-of-10 times we’re thrown out by 15 feet, but you have to make them play catch and we’ve seen too many balls get by catchers when they’re trying to apply the tag.”
Kiffer finished 2-for-5 with 2RBI’s and Johnny Sage was 3-for-3 with two walks and a stolen base. Ryan Altenberger hit his team-leading fifth big-fly in the third inning – that gave Wenatchee a 2-0 lead.
James Kulak gave the AppleSox four solid innings but was yanked in favor of Brett Gillis after loading the bases in the fifth. Gillis got Chase Luttrell to roll into a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam and got through the next two innings before giving way to Schirer in the eighth. Though Schirer did blow the save, he earns the win.
The AppleSox have a day off tomorrow before returning for a non-league game against the Cascade Collegiate League at home on Wednesday. They will then have another day off on Thursday before Yakima Valley comes in for a three-game set over the weekend.
“I think typically you’re praying for days off, but this group is ready to get back to work,” Krustangel said.