RIDGEFIELD — Monday’s Columbia River-Ridgefield baseball game at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex had a bit of everything — a dramatic three-run home run, a little trickery and a whole lot of controversy.
Wyatt Bartroff hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth, sending the Spudders to a 5-4 win over the Rapids and securing the 2A Greater St. Helens League title for Ridgefield.
“It is a great feeling,” Bartroff said. “I’m more happy, not with my performance, but with my team’s performance. Yes, it’s awesome hitting a nuke, but I just love winning as a team, not just as an individual.”
But what happened in the top of the seventh is what everyone at the RORC was talking afterwards.
After River put two runners on with no outs in the seventh, the Rapids attempted to bunt the runners over. Ridgefield pitch Khol Bush fielded the bunt and tried to force the runner out at third, but the runner was called safe, loading the bases.
Spudders third baseman Easton Ortega walked over to Bush to apparently return the ball to him. Then Bush went back on top of the mound and Ortega returned to third.
When the River runner stepped off the bag, Ortega tagged him out with the ball he did not return to Bush, and the runner was ruled out.
Columbia River coach Stephen Donohue quickly pointed out, according to high school rules, a pitcher is not permitted to return to the mound area without the ball in an effort to deceive the runner.
In fact, video of the play clearly shows that not only did Bush return to the mound, he either stepped on or astride the pitching rubber. If he does so without the ball, by rule, it should have resulted in a balk, allowing River to score the tying run.
However, after the umpires conferred, the call stood. Then Bush got the next two outs to seal the victory for the Spudders.
“I didn’t know what happened,” Ridgefield coach Nick Allen said. “I had my head down. I was looking at charts about how we were going to approach the next hitter. I have no idea what happened. We didn’t call it from the dugout. … Somebody told me it was the hidden ball play. And I was like ‘Wow! OK.’ ”
Even after the play in question, Bush needed to get two more outs, which he did — just like he did when he first took the mound in relief in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out.
“A little wizardy sometimes, smoke and mirrors, whatever you want to call it,” Allen said. “But Khol’s done that all year. He just sort of ties hitters up in knots, and there’s not a lot of solid contact.”
Columbia River’s Nick Alder was sailing through four innings, setting down the first 12 Spudders he faced as the Rapids took a 2-0 lead.
The Spudders finally broke through in the fifth, tying the game on an RBI single by Colby Andrew and a bases-loaded walk to Nick Radosevich.
River took the lead back in the top of the sixth on Adam Deeney’s two-run double.
Bush and Aidan Hunt walked to open the bottom of the sixth, then Bartroff sent the first pitch he saw over the center-field fence.
“I tried to hunt fastball early,” Bartroff said. “He’s a dealer and he hits corners. He’s a really good pitcher, probably one of the best pitchers in the league. With him dealing, I can’t get down in the count. So my approach was looking for that first-pitch fastball.”
It was Bartroff’s fourth home run of the season, a blast Allen felt was coming.
“I was laying in bed last night, thinking about the game last night and I thought ‘I bet Bartroff is going to hit a three-run walkoff home run. That’s how we’re going to win this game,’ ” Allen said. “And Wyatt hit it, and Bill (Alley), one of my assistants, said ‘Oh my God, I had a dream about that last night.’ ”
But no one could have foretold what happened in the top of the seventh.
The Rapids filed a protest after the game. But as it stands now, Ridgefield will be the 2A GSHL’s No. 1 seed when the 2A district playoffs open next Tuesday.
“We get to play some more pressure games,” Allen said. “That’s the fun part.”