RIDGEFIELD – For five innings, Walla Walla pitcher Joe Ball befuddled the Ridgefield Raptors.
Caden Connor changed that with one swing.
Connor’s two-run home run in the sixth inning ignited the Raptors in a 5-1 win Saturday at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Connor’s two-run shot onto the right field berm, his first of the season, gave the Raptors a 2-1 lead. The Cal State Fullerton outfielder followed with a two-RBI triple in the seventh inning.
That was more than enough offense to support Raptors pitchers Brock Gillis and Carson Walters, who combined to allow just one hit.
Ball had allowed just three baserunners against the West Coast League’s top scoring team, including a single to Bradlee Preap to lead off the sixth. After a sacrifice bunt advanced Preap, Connor came to the plate not trying to do too much.
“My first two at bats I got out of character,” Connor said. “The third one I was really trying to stay simple and get a base hit. I got a pitch up and was ready for it.”
Connor launched a hanging slider. In a moment, he changed the game’s tone.
“Brock really threw well, so I knew I had to pick him up,” Connor said. “Our offense is so good and our pitching has been lights out this month. We just had to scrap at least two across the board to get it going.”
Ridgefield (22-16, 9-5 second half) has won two in a row heading into Sunday’s series finale against the Sweets (14-27, 9-12).
Holding tight – Connor also made one of the best catches this season in the top of the third. He leapt to catch Jack Sheward’s deep drive, then held on as he crashed into the right field fence. It was a crucial catch because Nation Wood followed by reaching on a two-base error, but Walla Walla didn’t score.
Shutdown relief – Raptors pitcher Carson Walters inherited a one-hit gem when he entered the game in the seventh inning. But there was no letup. The Gonzaga pitcher started by striking out Walla Walla No. 3 hitter Colin Wetterau, setting the tone for three perfect innings of relief.
Single shot – Until the sixth, Walla Walla shortstop Parker Price supplied the game’s offense with a solo home run into the Raptors bullpen in the fourth. He also made two stellar defensive plays, throwing out Raptors runners at first from deep in the hole.
Brock Gillis – The Ridgefield starter was excellent through six innings, allowing just Price’s home run. The University of Portland righty struck out nine, walked one and worked six innings for the third time in his last four starts.
Bradlee Preap – The Raptors catcher had two hits and also showed why playing his position takes grit. The Radford University player took painful foul-tips off his mask and forearm but stayed in the game. He reached on a single before Connor’s go-ahead homer.
Wade Meckler – The centerfielder, who hit .303 in 49 games this spring for Oregon State, has made an impact in his first two games with Ridgefield. He had two hits for a second straight night, driving in an insurance run with a single in the seventh.
1,325 – The attendance on Saturday for Rally the Raptor bobblehead night, a season high.
39 – RBIs this summer for Connor, who leapt ahead of teammate John Peck for the West Coast League lead.
3 – Hard-hit balls in play by the Raptors prior to the sixth inning.
RIDGEFIELD 5, WALLA WALLA 1
Walla Walla 000 100 000—1 1 0
Ridgefield 000 002 30x—5 9 1
Pitching – Joe Ball 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB; Logan Hurd 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 K, 1 BB; Jacob Dahlstrom 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Parker Price 1-4, R, RBI, HR.
Pitching – Brock Gillis 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 9 K, 0 BB, W; Carson Walters 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 5 K, 0 BB, S. Highlights – Caden Connor 2-4, 2 R, 4 RBI, HR, 3B; Wade Meckler 2-3, RBI; John Peck 1-4; Will Chambers 1-4, 2B; Brady Kasper 1-3, R; Bradlee Preap 2-3, 2 R.