The Kelowna Falcons opened their 18th season of West Coast League baseball with a pair of comebacks, scoring two runs in the 9th inning to force extra frames before scoring twice in the 11th inning of play to defeat the Bellingham Bells by a 5-4 score on Friday night at Elks Stadium.
Pitching was the name of the game early in the contest as both starters were excellent right out of the gate. Falcons starting pitcher Cal Hehnke went 5 strong innings, allowing just three hits and giving up just one run while striking out seven batters and walking one. The lone touch up on his night was a solo home run off the bat of Jordan Stoner, clearing the left field fence by a foot and just inside of the foul pole.
Justin Armbruester was also strong in his outing, allowing six hits and one run while striking out seven in his four innings of work. The Falcons were able to push through Armbruester for their first run of the season off a hard-hit ball from Davis Todosichuk that was bobbled by shortstop Dusty Stroup to tie the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
Matt James collected three hits in the Bells opener on Friday and drove in Bellingham’s second run of the game with an RBI single in the 6th inning as he laced a ball into left field and scored Griffin McCormick from second base.
James was at it again in the 8th inning with another RBI single off of reliever Wyatt Hummel to give the Bells a two-run lead going into the late innings before the Falcons mounted their first comeback of the night.
Taylor Wright opened the bottom of the 9th inning with a single before a Trent Tinglestad walk put runners on first and second with just one out. After a Lucas Soper pop out and down to their final out, Cody Crowder shot a ball through right side to get the score within a run before Mike Piniero singled to left field on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game at 3-3 and force extra innings.
Stoner collected his second RBI of the night on a frozen rope up the middle to give the Bells their third lead of the game at 4-3 before Kelowna made another comeback effort and capped off a tremendous opening night.
Soper led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a walk and would advance to 3rd base on a stolen base and error before Piniero walked to put runners on the corners for Jake Fischer. The catcher bulleted a single to right field to tie the game at 4-4 and set the stage for a opening night walk-off victory.
Dan Pruitt stepped to the plate with runners at first and second and powered a single through the right side where Piniero raced around third base and slide into home and give the Falcons an opening night victory at Elks Stadium.
Isaac Olson earned the win on opening night with a strong performance on the mound with three innings pitched allowing just one run on three hits. Ryan Och took the loss for the Bells while pitching an inning and allowing two runs.
The second of the three-game series between the Falcons and Bells gets underway at 6:35 PM at Elks Stadium on Saturday, June 2nd before the finale of the set goes on Sunday at 6:05 PM.