Smith delivers in rare start, Knights pound Elks 10-1.July 23, 2015
Second baseman Alec Smith (pictured) had three hits and four RBIs as Corvallis topped Bend to sweep a key South series before a Goss crowd of 1,702.
The Knights (34-15 all, 30-15 WCL) led the Elks (26-19) by one game in the South Division pennant race before the series. Corvallis now leads them by four games with nine remaining in its quest for an unprecedented eighth consecutive regular-season division championship.
A rising sophomore at Cal Poly, Smith tripled in two runs in the fourth to give the Knights a 4-1 lead, then capped a six-run eighth with another two-run triple. He also scored twice, singled, stole a base and was hit by a pitch to reach safely in all four plate appearances in a very productive night from the 9-hole.
"I felt confident in my swing for the first time," said Smith, who had just three RBIs in 21 previous games. "I feel this is a turning point.
"[Coach Brooke Knight] has been working with me a lot. [Starter Chris Bishop] also had a great game."
Two others generally not in the starting lineup also had big nights. Right fielder Phil Leopold (Bellarmine) singled, doubled, walked, scored twice and drove in two runs; catcher Josh Latta (Tacoma CC) singled twice and scored two runs.
Left fielder Grant Melker (San Diego) singled twice, stole two bases and drove in a pair and Marc Gallegos (Corban) had two hits, a run, a steal and an RBI for the Knights. They have won eight consecutive WCL series and are 19-5 in their last 24 games to assume control of the South Division.
The aforementioned Bishop (Pacific Lutheran) stymied Bend on four hits and one run over 6.2 innings in his second straight outstanding start. He struck out nine and walked two and stretched his scoreless streak to 14 innings over four games before giving up a run with two outs in the fifth.
Bishop walked the first two Elks in the seventh and went 3-0 on Jo Carroll. But he recovered to fan Carroll, and then got a groundout before being relieved by Chris Haddeland (Linfield). Haddeland ended the threat with a four-pitch strikeout, preserving the 4-1 lead.
Bishop's ERA was 5.55 after he was rocked for five runs in 1.1 relief innings at Klamath Falls on July 5. Since then he has allowed just one run in 16 innings, lowering it to 3.48, and won both of his starts.
The Knights begin a weekend series at Klamath Falls at 6:35 p.m. Friday. PLU righthander Derrick Mahlum (2-1, 4.64) is the projected starter in the opener.
Thursday's crowd of 1,702 raised the 2014 total to 35,353 in 28 openings. That's 1,060 less than in 2013 through a corresponding number of dates; the Knights drew a franchise record 43,557 fans last season.