Portland, Ore. --
The Portland Pickles clinched a playoff spot on the Fourth of July in front of 2, 770 fans at Walker Stadium, defeating Cowlitz 10-2. The Pickles have won the South Division of the West Coast League for the first half of the season, securing a playoff spot in mid-August.
Portland (17-8) mathmetically eliminated Corvallis (13-10) with the win, after Walla Walla (15-12) limped to the finish with a sweep at the hands of Bend, and was eliminated Tuesday.
The Pickles have won six in a row and seven of their last eight with Wednesday's victory. They will wrap up the first half of the season Thursday with the series finale vs Cowlitz (9-16).
Portland starter Connor Pellerin got the win (4-1), pitching four innings of hitless, scoreless baseball. He was relieved by Michael Frias who pitched three innings, allowing 3 hits and one run before passing off to Colby Wyatt, who tossed an unblemished eighth. Brad Bonnefant worked around a run in the ninth to get the final three outs, securing the Division title and a playoff spot for the WCL expansion squad.
Offensively the Pickles totaled 10 runs on 13 hits, led by the bottom of the order. 8-hitter Daniel Edson and 9-hitter Jace McKinney combined to go 6-for-7 with four runs scored. Their singles with one out in the third set the stage for Gio Diaz, who launched a three-run shot over the wall in left for his third home run of the season, giving Portland a 3-0 lead.
The Pickles scored five runs in the fifth inning, all with two outs. McKinney doubled and reached third on a groundout, and Davis Delorefice scocred him with a single to center. After Delorefice stole second, Zander Clarke singled him home for another run, and Joey Cooper drove him in with another two-out knock. Jack Murphy brought home another run with a single to score Mikey Perez who walked earlier in the frame. Sam Novitske pinch-ran for Murphy, got into a perfectly executed first-and-third rundown, and allowed Cooper to sprint home to score the fifth run of the inning before getting tagged out.
Cowtliz made it 8-1 with a run in the sixth, but Portland scored two more in the bottom half thanks to a fielder's choice by McKinney that scored Daniel Lopez and an RBI groundout by Delorefice that plated Edson. Delorefice finished with two RBI on the night, and has five RBI in the series. That extended the lead to 10-1 before Cowlitz added a final tick in the ninth.
The Pickles are first half South Division Champions in their first season in the West Coast League, ensuring playoff baseball will be played at Walker Stadium in August. The playoffs are currently set to begin on Friday August 10th.
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