The sun wasn’t shining for Pendleton’s first baseball game of the spring on Tuesday and neither was Buckaroos’ offense for the majority of the game.
Pendleton lost its season opener against Walla Walla 9-3 at home on a field that was sprinkled with a rain-and-hail mixture right before first pitch. But where the weather never did improve — save a hold on the precipitation front — the Bucks started to warm up at the plate.
Trailing 9-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the same Bucks who had collected five hits through five innings started a little rally. Pendleton (0-1) would swat five more hits in the inning.
It all started when Lathan Alger beat out an infield single to lead things off. With one out, Tommy Lane drove a ball into the right field corner for an RBI double. Still a mountain ahead to climb, Grant Klopmeyer stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter. He was eager, trying to continue the charge and swung over the first decent pitch he saw.
“The first pitch I was ahead of it so I tried to wait back and make sure it was a good pitch,” Klopmeyer said. “I stayed inside and drove it.”
Klopmeyer’s shot could be the ruler to measure Bob White Field from home plate to outfield wall as the ball dinged off the top of the 20-foot fence and over for a two-run home run.
Pendleton put two more men on base before Walla Walla (1-0) reliever Adam Matthews could get out of the inning.
The 9-0 hole for the Bucks suggests a nasty all-around game in the early going for Pendleton. In reality, one ugly inning put the home team out of this one. Pendleton starter Reese Merriman threw the first four innings, allowing
just two runs, but some shoddy fielding across the board helped Walla Walla pile it on in the fifth after he was gone.
The Blue Devils sent 11 men to the plate, scored seven times and ran themselves out of the inning before it could get worse when second baseman Josh Eggers was thrown out at home by 10-plus feet.
“After a couple innings we kind of settled in a little bit and started squaring some balls up and got in a good rhythm with the team,” said Eggers, who had a pair of hits in the frame.
Pendleton had the hits to hang in there, but it lost some runs on the base paths. Three straight singles in the third fielded no runs thanks to a pickoff play by Walla Walla pitcher Luke Reardon (1-0) and a double play ball.
“We can hit better than that, we’ve just got to focus on hitting the ball the other way and up the middle,” Pendleton coach Greg Whitten said. “It’ll come around. I think it’s just the first game and not having enough at-bats yet.”
The Bucks get another crack at it Friday against Lincoln at home. First pitch is at 4 p.m.