West Coast League Wild Card Spot Up for Grabs

With one week remaining in the West Coast League regular season, the Bellingham Bells have clinched the West Division. The Bells own the league’s best record at 33-14 and were recently awarded the 2015 WCL All-Star Game. The division title is Bellingham’s first as a member of the West Coast League.

The South Division is led by WCL defending champion Corvallis. The Knights (32-16) hold a four-game lead over second-place Bend (28-20) and can clinch the team’s eighth consecutive division title with a win over the Elks during their home series scheduled August 5-7 at Goss Stadium.

Expansion Yakima Valley (30-18) leads the East Division by four games over Wenatchee (26-22). The AppleSox are in jeopardy of missing the WCL playoffs for the first time. But can make up ground on Yakima during Wenatchee’s regular-season series finale with the Pippins on August 8-10 at Paul Thomas Sr. Field. The Sox are also only two games behind Bend in the wild card standings. Wenatchee is 5-1 vs. Yakima Valley this summer. If Wenatchee makes the playoffs, they will be tough to beat.

The league’s first ever wild card spot is up for grabs with Bend two games ahead of the AppleSox. Walla Walla and Medford are also in the hunt as the Sweets are four games back and Rogues five.

Bend owns the tie-breaker with Wenatchee winning 2 of 3 vs. the AppleSox at Vince Genna Stadium. The Elks play at Corvallis and finish with three at home vs. the Klamath Falls Gems. Wenatchee plays three at Kelowna and finishes at home vs. Yakima Valley.

The Sweets wrap with a three-game home series vs. Victoria followed by a three-game road series at Kelowna. Medford finishes with two games at Klamath and then a home game with the Gems and three home games versus Corvallis.

Bellingham is led by the league’s top pitching staff (2.67 team ERA) featuring league ERA leader Aaron Sandefur of Bellevue College and ace Seth Martinez of Arizona State. Sandefur is 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA with 51 strikeouts over 54 innings pitched while Martinez is 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA. Danny Miller of Chico State leads the Bells offensively as the senior-to-be leads Bellingham in batting with a .325 average and in doubles with 9 and home runs with 5 while knocking in 25. The Bells may have to be road warriors in the post-season because Joe Martin Field will not be available as the City of Bellingham is installing field turf at Joe Martin.

Corvallis has used the long ball and stolen bases to lead the South; hitting a team-record 32 homers and stealing a league-leading 101 bases. Kevin Kline of Dixie State (.307, 12 doubles) and Dalton Kelly of UC Santa Barbara (.339, 6 HR, 29 RBI) power the Knights, but it’s center fielder Grant Melker of San Diego that ignites the offense. Melker, who is hitting .326, leads the league in stolen bases with 25 and runs scored with 36. Kline is tied for the lead league in home runs with 8 and leads the league in RBIs with 43. Knights’ ace Jackson Lockwood of Portland (8-2, 2.54) leads the WCL in wins with 8.

The most surprising team in the WCL is the expansion Pippins. Yakima Valley is close to pulling off a first, winning a division title in the WCL as an expansion club. Yakima is led by left-handed hitting slugger Vince Fernandez of UC Riverside. Fernandez leads the Pippins in average (.342), home runs (7) and RBIs (42). Future Gonzaga Bulldog Eli Morgan leads the Yakima staff as the right-hander is 7-0 with a 3.00 ERA over 9 starts. Yakima lost WCL All-Star Jake Roberts (.336, 2 HR, 17 RBIs, 8 stolen bases) and BYU outfielder JC Snyder (.263, 2 HR, 19 RBIs). Both will be hard to replace, but the Pippins have played very well since their departures.

Bend features the league’s top closers in Luis Cohen of Cal State Northridge and Kevin Sheets of Abilene Christian. Both have made 17 appearances with Cohen recording 6 saves and posting a 1.42 ERA while walking only 3 and striking out 37 and Sheets registering 9 saves and posting a 0.93 ERA while walking only 3 and striking out 35. The Elks offense took a hit when Bend lost WCL All-Star shortstop Nick Lopez of Creighton (.345, 30 runs) and Arizona State slugging outfielders Jake Peevyhouse (.337) and Trever Allen (.307, 4 HR). But Bend is still potent with Brock Carpenter of Seattle leading the way. Carpenter leads the Elks in doubles (11) and RBI (28).

Wenatchee, who leads the league in hitting with a .289 team batting average, will count on its offense to get them back in the post-season. Five Sox regulars are hitting over .300 with WCL All-Star second baseman Caleb Wood of Gonzaga leading the way at .360 with Sam Brown of Gonzaga (.348); Tyler Frost, a future Zag (.345); Ty Jackson of Lewis-Clark State (.340): and Michael McCann of Seattle (.320) also eclipsing .300. Jackson leads Wenatchee in doubles with 13, home runs with 3 and RBIs with 31. Frosh all-american Trenton Brooks of Nevada-Reno is a two-way weapon for Sox skipper Ed Knaggs. He’s hitting .288 with two homers and 19 RBI and on the mound he’s collected 2 saves and gone 2-3 with a 3.30 ERA while striking out 24 over 16.1 innings pitched.

The WCL post-season starts Tuesday, August 12th with the three division winners earning berths and one wild card team. First-round best-of-three playoff pairings will be announced no later than Monday, August 11th by WCL president Dennis Koho.