RIDGEFIELD – For two players who have been with the Ridgefield Raptors dating back to their inaugural 2019 season, it was fitting that the first playoff win in team history would be in the hands of relief pitcher Eli Shubert and catcher Isaac Lovings.
Shubert knew he would be called on to close Tuesday’s game against the Portland Pickles only if Ridgefield held a lead.
That seemed unlikely for a moment, until the Raptors came back from a two-run deficit by scoring three runs in the eighth on RBI from Riley McCarthy, Mikey Kane and Isaac Lovings. As a result, Shubert took the mound in the top of the ninth without warming up.
Shubert walked the first batter and another to put two runners on. But with the Raptors making two outs in the field, the right-handed pitcher struck out the final batter on a 1-2 count, sending the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex crowd of 1,516 into a frenzy. The Raptors’ 9-8 win marked their first in three seasons in the West Coast League, and gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
“It was the most electric this stadium’s been all year,” Shubert said. “It was great. I’ve never seen so many fans up and cheering.”
“Those eight pitches out there (on the mound) were what I got to warm up with, so it was a little more nerve-wracking than it should’ve been. Of course, a leadoff walk isn’t good. But, we got it done, and the offense came through really big, so that was awesome.”
The seesaw game flipped Portland’s way thanks to Eddie Saldivar Jr.’s two-run home run in the sixth and a bases-loaded walk in the eighth gave Portland an insurance run with an 8-6 lead.
Ridgefield began the bottom half of the inning with two of its most reliable hitters, Trent Prokes and Safea Mauai due up.
First, Prokes grinded out a long at bat and slashed a single through the left side of the infield on a 3-2 count and Mauai found a nearly identical spot for another base hit.
“I wasn’t thinking anything on the play, just trying to get on base and having fun,” Prokes said. “To have Safea (hitting) behind me, that’s a big bat right there, along with the rest of the lineup, so it’s huge.”
Then, the floodgates opened.
Doyle Kane executed a sacrifice bunt, moving Mauai and Prokes over to second and third base.
Riley McCarthy, who replaced Will Chambers midway through the game as designated hitter, knocked in the first run with a base hit to left. Next, Mikey Kane slashed a single past a diving Pickles infielder for the game-tying run. Lovings followed with the go-ahead RBI and reached first on a fielder’s choice.
“I think we just trusted each other,” Lovings said. “Pass-the-baton mentality. We were working with one out, (so) we knew we could get the job done. We had guys playing in the heart of our lineup that could get it done. Just put the ball in play, that was the main goal there.”
Now the series shifts to Portland’s Walker Stadium for Wednesday’s game two. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The Pickles will also host a third game, if necessary, on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a good series,” Portland manager Mark Magdaleno said prior to Tuesday’s game. “It’s going be who’s put (themselves) in a good enough position to win in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. That’s just the name of the beast. These guys are good (and) they’re managed well.”
Ridgefield has now won five of seven games on the season over Portland, though several of them were back and forth much like Tuesday’s was.
“It’s going to turn into a bit of a street fight,” Magdaleno said. “We’re just going to keep punching each other in the mouth until somebody finally blinks.”
Four for four – The Raptors produced four runs to take a 5-4 lead in the fourth thanks to RBI singles from Travis Welker and Safea Mauai, with a Trent Prokes two-run single sandwiched in between.
Back and forth, back and forth – In the sixth, Saldivar cracked a go-ahead, two-run home run to give the Pickles a 7-6 lead. The homer prompted Ridgefield to call on reliver David Allen to replace starter Jeter Schuerman.
Rally time – RBI from Riley McCarthy, Mikey Kane and Isaac Lovings gave the Raptors the lead in the eighth after facing an 8-6 deficit.
Mikey Kane – The Oregon State commit delivered the game-tying RBI single in the eighth, and finished 3-for-4 with a double.
Trent Prokes – Prokes led off the eighth by grinding out a single on a full count, then scored on Riley McCarthy’s RBI single. The Cal State Bakersfield player finished 3-for-4 with a team-high two RBI.
Eddie Saldivar Jr. – Portland’s leadoff hitter delivered a two-run home run and a triple.
1 – Playoff wins in Ridgefield Raptors team history. Both Ridgefield and Portland were 0-2 in the WCL postseason prior to Tuesday’s game, each getting swept by the Corvallis Knights.
5 – Lead changes between the Raptors and Pickles.
1,516 – Spectators in attendance for Tuesday’s game.
RIDGEFIELD 9, PORTLAND 8
Portland 020 023 010—8 9 0
Ridgefield 100 410 03x—9 15 1
Pitching – Kolby Kmetko 4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 5 K, 3 BB; Ian Umlandt 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB; Levi Kiuchi 1.1 IP, 0 H, ER, 2K, 1 BB; Nathan Shinn 0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 K, 0 BB; Evan Tomlinson 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Eddie Saldivar Jr. 3-5, R, 3B, HR, 2 RBI; Jacob Jablonski 1-3, R; Kyle Russell RBI; Evan Leibl 1-3, R; Jose Ruiz 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Kyler Stancato 1-4, R; Keith Jones II 1-3, 2 R; Caden Parker 1-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI.
Pitching – Jeter Schuerman 5.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 5 K, 3 BB; David Allen 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 K, 3 BB; Ryan Obrecht 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Eli Shubert 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 2 BB. Highlights – Jake Tsukada 1-4, 2 R; Travis Welker 2-5, R, RBI; Trent Prokes 3-4, R, 2 RBI; Safea Mauai 2-4, R, RBI; Doyle Kane 1-4; Will Chambers R; Riley McCarthy 1-2, R, RBI; Mikey Kane 3-4, R, 2B, RBI; Isaac Lovings 1-5, R, 2B, RBI; Austin Caviness 1-2, Henry Muench RBI.