WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee AppleSox knew what they were dealing with, with Gil Luna on the mound for game two against the Bend Elks on Wednesday night. Luna had fanned 9 AppleSox last Friday night in Bend on the way to an 11-1 victory.
The southpaw Luna, a junior at Arizona, was electric again, fanning 12 AppleSox on the way to a 9-1 win.
“He is a buzz saw. He’s probably the best I’ve seen the past three years in the West Coast League. He is a competitor with multiple pitches. You have to tip your cap,” said Wenatchee Head Coach Kyle Krustangel. “With him, you have to have a good approach and a good zone. He walked four guys. We swung at a lot of balls and took too many strikes. You have to change the recipe and drive those walk numbers up and the ‘K’ numbers down.”
Krustangel said against a pitcher like that, you need to limit him to four innings rather than letting him go seven innings.
AppleSox starter Ryan Long ran into trouble in the first inning, giving up two runs on single, double, walk and hit batter. Bend led 2-0 in the first. In the bottom of the first, Johnny Sage and Cole McKenzie walked with one out, but Luna got back to back strikeouts on Dalton Harum and Blake Klassen to end the inning.
In the game, Wenatchee went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.
“We didn’t get a chance to string much together. You got a guy on and that is about it. You get a couple on with two outs. He was able to do some damage control by rearing back the fastball when he had to and using the off-speed when he got ahead,” Krustangel said. “We had a few things going but you have to string a few things together rather than one here, one there.”
Long settled down and pitched into the fourth. He put runners on first and second with one out, but was able to get out of the inning with a flyball to left field and a pop up to short. It looked like Long was doing well, but Krustagel decided to pull him after the fourth.
He said Long’s pitch count was up and he wasn’t showing good command of his off-speed pitches.
“His curveball was up and his slider was up. It didn’t look like he had his best stuff. When we recognized that, we went to somebody else,” Krustangel said of Long. “The sign for me was he couldn’t locate his off-speed pitches. He was relying too much on the fastball. He was able to battle through four. He had over 30 pitches in the first inning. That is a lot. He was showing signs of fatigue so it was time to get him out of there.”
Southpaw James Kulak pitched the fifth. Nine Elks came to the plate as they scored four runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Bend now led 6-0. Righthander Matt Cuenca pitched the sixth and seventh, giving up one run on a double, walk and hit batter. But he did strike out six batters.
Wenatchee scratched across a run in the sixth as Kodie Kolden doubled and later scored on a throwing error by the catcher. Bend led 7-1 after seven.
The Elks scored two more runs in the eighth and ninth off Grant Brunt. Long took the loss for the AppleSox. He pitched 4 innings, giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits with 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. Luna got the win for Bend. He pitched 7 innings, giving 3 hits, no earned runs with 12 strikeouts and 4 walks.
Kolden was 2-for-4 with a run. Brett Gillis was 2-for-4. For Bend, Brad Morgan was 2-for-4 with 2 runs and a walk. Vinny Zavolta was 2-for-4 with 2 runs. Justin Parsons was 2-for-3 with a home run, 2 runs, and RBI.
Wenatchee falls to 0-2 in the second half, while Bend improves to 2-0. The third and final game of the three-game series is Thursday night. The AppleSox will send their ace to the mound, UCLA bound Jake Saum.
“He has probably got some of the most electric stuff in the league. He is a potential first-round draft pick. We’re excited he’ll go tomorrow and give us a chance to even the series between our place and their place. We have the right guy on the mound,” Krustangel said.
After Bend, the Sox begin a three-game home series with Bellingham on Friday. The Belles are 1-1 in the second half. They were 16-11 in the first half, good enough for second place in the North Division of the WCL.