RIDGEFIELD — As the Ridgefield Raptors closed out Sunday’s regular season finale with the final out in the top of the ninth, the celebration started on the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex turf.
Kids eager to get one last autograph from their favorite players filed out to the infield. Players exchanged handshakes and hugs while reliving some of their favorite moments of the summer.
The day was made even sweeter with a 4-3 win over the Corvallis Knights, giving the Raptors two series wins this season over the top team in the West Coast League. Ridgefield will get at least one more home game when they open a best-of-three WCL Divisional Series on Tuesday against the Portland Pickles.
“The fans here are just awesome,” Raptors centerfielder Austin Caviness said. “It’s really cool with the kids and it’s just a good atmosphere having all this support.”
“It’s been amazing, just this atmosphere here I’ve loved all season, and to get the last win here in the last regular season game, it was great,” added Raptors third baseman Mikey Kane.
Ridgefield came back from a 3-2 deficit with one run apiece in the sixth and seventh innings after jumping out to a 2-0 lead through three innings with solo home runs from Jacob Sharp and Austin Caviness.
First, Trent Prokes hit the game-tying RBI single to score Sharp. Then, Mikey Kane and Caviness led off the seventh with back-to-back base hits, setting up Jake Tsukada to hit a go-ahead RBI single.
Braiden Yukon earned the save by holding the Knights scoreless with one hit in the final three innings. The Knights were limited to five hits between starter Eli Shubert, who pitched two innings, plus relievers Eastyn Culp and Youkon.
“Our chemistry has been really good, we’ve played as a team … and we’re just playing good ball,” Caviness said. “In baseball, chemistry is so big. If you don’t have good chemistry, that makes a difference in close games like this. I just believe the team with the better chemistry usually prevails. It’s just kind of cool, we’ve shown that we’ve got a good squad with good chemistry.”
As one of several players to arrive two weeks into the season in June, Caviness hit the ground running and the found the fit to be seamless. Those who have bounced around to different summer ball teams know that’s not always the case.
“It was honestly quick, way quicker than last summer baseball team, also because all the guys here are good players too,” Caviness said. “They all play the game the right way, have each other’s back. When I first got here … literally it was just welcoming arms.”
Now, the Raptors (32-21) head into the postseason having won seven of their final 10 regular season games, including two of three against the Knights (39-15).
They also own a 4-2 record against the No. 2 seed Portland Pickles. Game one is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at the RORC. Games two and three, if necessary, are at Portland’s Walker Stadium.
“I feel like we have all the momentum going into playoffs, and I feel if we get Portland, we have a good chance to go all the way with this group of guys,” Kane said.
Flying solo — The Raptors got their first two runs (and two hits) via solo home runs. Jacob Sharp hit a homer over the center field wall in the first inning and Austin Caviness followed with a blast to right field in the third, giving the Raptors a 2-0 lead.
Bullpen blast — Corvallis tied Ridgefield at 2-2 in the fifth inning on Jonah Advincula’s solo home run to right that landed near the Knights’ bullpen.
Raptors limit Knights’ damage — Brady Lavoie scored on a fielder’s choice in the sixth to give Corvallis a 3-2 lead. The Knights later loaded the bases on a hit by pitch and walk, but all three runners were left stranded on a Culp strikeout.
Jacob Sharp — Sharp (UNLV) went 2-for-3 with a home run.
Austin Caviness — The Cal Poly outfielder hit his second home run of the season and continued a strong series with seven hits and two RBI in three games against the Knights.
Trent Prokes — Returning to the Raptors lineup following a two-week absence due to injury, Prokes (Cal State Bakersfield) went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Prokes raised his league-leading batting average to .415.
14 — Jacob Sharp’s West Coast League-leading home run total for the season. With a solo home run in the first inning, the UNLV commit has hit all but one of his homers at the RORC.
4 — Wins for the Raptors against the Knights in six games this season, the most of any team in the WCL.
3 — Ridgefield’s playoff seed for the WCL Divisional Series against the second-seeded Portland Pickles. The Raptors will host game one on Tuesday before the series moves to Portland on Wednesday for game two and a third game, if necessary, on Thursday.