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Black Bears Top Sweets, 5-2

Game Story.  Walla Walla, WA. July 17, 2013.  The Cowlitz Black Bears (18-14) were the complete package on Wednesday night, showing consistent offensive pressure, solid pitching and steady defense in a hard-earned, 5-2 victory over the Walla Walla Sweets (19-16).  It was the second straight night the Black Bears had double digit hits, and the fourth straight game without an error defensively. 

The offense rallied early against Walla Walla starter Jonathan Harris, scoring three runs in the third inning. Back-to-back singles by Tanner Pinkston and Dillion Ness put runners on first and third with one out before  Pinkston scored from third on a wild pitch. With runners on the corners following a groundout and a walk, Ryan Aguilar drove in Ness for the second run. Devyn Bolasky added an an RBI single to score Kyle Knigge.

The newest member of the Black Bears, Ness clubbed a home run to deep left-center field on the first pitch of the fourth inning to give Cowlitz a commanding 4-0 lead.  "I actually didn't think it was gonna get out, but some days everything just goes your way," said Ness following the game.  

The Black Bears would add an insurance run in the ninth inning with an Aguilar double to lead off the inning, scoring on Bolasky's second RBI single of the night.

Black Bears pitchers were in control throughout the night.  Starter Jon Bjorklund worked five innings, allowing two runs on five hits.  The bullpen took the reigns in the sixth, holding the Sweets hitless over the final four innings and facing one over the minimum. Billy Sahlinger worked three scoreless innings, striking out five.  Brian McAfee worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the second straight night to earn his fourth save of the season and secure the win for Bjorklund.
 
Newcomer Ness made a big impression in his second game with the Black Bears.  The Oregon State second baseman went 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and an RBI to go along with several spectacular defensive plays.
 
Pinkston's 3-for-5 performance with a run scored continued his hot streak.  The Cal State Fullerton first baseman has at least one hit in each of the last five games, and has stolen a base in each of the games against the Sweets.

As of the conclusion of Wednesday's contests, the WCL statistical leader board was teeming with Black Bears.  Cowlitz currently has the top two hitters in the league (Bolasky, Knigge), the top three in on base percentage (Aguilar, Knigge, Bolasky), the league leader in wins (McAfee), and the number two in ERA (Sahlinger).

The Black Bears will go for the sweep against the Sweets on Thursday night. Drew Merlo (1-0, 7.14 ERA) will make his first start of the season for the Black Bears opposite Cody Poteet (1-0, 4.62 ERA) and the Sweets. Catch all the action on KEDO AM 1400 with Shane Downey beginning at 6:55 and streaming live on cowlitzblackbears.com