Cheney’s regular season-ending doubleheader was the story of two different teams – one that struggled at the plate and on the mound and the other the exact opposite.
Blackhawks’ pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone in the first game last Friday with Pullman, eventually leading to an 11-run sixth inning for the visitors and 12-2 loss. In game two Cheney struck early and big, scoring eight runs in the bottom of the first en route to the 11-4 win over the Greyhounds.
“The boys got a little fired up after getting 10-runned and came out swinging,” Blackhawks’ manager Randy Elam said. “It was a very impressive turn around, a great team effort.”
All of Cheney’s runs in the first came with two outs – a solo home run by Connor Netz, his second of the afternoon, RBI singles by Tristan Flippo and Tyler Gustafson, an RBI double by Joey Beamer, a 2 RBI single from Josh Arthur and a 2 RBI double by Tanner Gamby. Netz added a double in Cheney’s 3-run sixth, with Sawyer Sims (2) and Austin Harding adding singles in the Blackhawks’ 12-hit attack.
Sims (5-0) got the win, giving up one run while striking out five and walking one in five innings, with Arthur and Harding coming on in the sixth to close out the game.
In game one the Blackhawks’ bats found the going tough against Pullman starter Christian Palomo, who struck out the side in the second and didn’t surrender his first hit until Gamby’s lead-off double in the third. Cheney finally got on the board in the fourth on Netz’s first home run – a line drive screamer over the fence in right – and took a 2-1 lead when Harding followed with an infield single and subsequently scored on Flippo’s one-out single.
Netz gave up a bases loaded walk for Pullman’s run in the first, and got into trouble in the third when Elam lifted him for Alex Berman. Berman pitched well until the sixth when he developed trouble finding the strike zone.
“He’s a sophomore and has pitched well for us,” Elam said. “(He) has a tremendous upside and is a great kid. I probably left him out a little too long, but I wanted him to have the experience of having to work out of trouble.”
Berman surrendered two walks, two singles, a double and a fielder’s choice, with Robbie Cook coming on and also having troubles, giving up two walks a single and hitting a batter. Harding relieved Cook and finally got the first out of the inning, but not before nine of Pullman’s eventual 11 runs crossed the plate.
Berman (2-2) took the loss, with Cheney managing just five hits by Netz (2), Gamby and singles from Arthur and Flippo.
Tuesday the Blackhawks were firing on all cylinders – pitching, hitting and defense – in a 6-0 win at Colville. Cook, Netz, Sims and Harding combined on the two-hit shutout, striking out nine Indians batters, five by Netz, while walking two, with Cook getting the win. Dominic Bonilla, Harding, Sims and Flippo each had a pair of hits, with Sims and Harding adding RBIs.
Cheney finishes the Great Northern League season at 9-9, 9-11 overall. The Blackhawks earned the No. 4 seed in this week’s playoffs, hosting No. 5 Pullman (5-13, 5-14). Tuesday, results next week.
The winner moves on to face league champion West Valley (17-1, 18-1) Wednesday while the loser’s season is done.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.