PORTLAND – For a group of baseball players who met just a couple months ago to spend a summer on the same team, the Ridgefield Raptors pride themselves on how quickly their chemistry came together.
They leaned on it Wednesday, particularly during the final few innings against the Portland Pickles in Game 2 of the West Coast League Divisional Series when the playoff atmosphere at Walker Stadium reached a boiling point on and off the field.
The Raptors surrendered a game-tying home run in the seventh, then had the game stopped twice to deal with separate incidents involving Ridgefield players and Portland fans, two of whom were ejected.
Already with a 1-0 series lead, those moments only added more fuel to the Raptors’ fire. Travis Welker hit a two-run, go-ahead single in the eighth and Eli Shubert earned his second save in as many nights to give Ridgefield a 7-5 win.
Ridgefield eliminated Portland from the playoffs and moved on to the WCL South Division Championship, a single game to be played Saturday against either the Yakima Valley Pippins or Corvallis Knights.
“We always have each other’s backs, from day one, and that’s something that I love about this team,” said Jake Tsukada, Ridgefield’s second baseman and leadoff hitter. “It doesn’t matter what’s thrown at us or who’s thrown at us; we’re all going to come together and that’s what (was) shown today. I mean, every guy helped for this win, and that’s what it’s been all season long.”
Ridgefield gained its largest lead, 5-2, in the fourth inning with runs scored by Henry Muench and Tsukada, the latter delivered on a Trent Prokes double off the centerfield wall.
That lead was safe for a few innings with Ridgefield starter Sawyer Parkin on the mound, but the Raptors hit some turbulence in the seventh when the Pickles got two runners on with a walk and hit by pitch.
Parkin exited in favor of reliever Ryan Obrecht and the first batter he faced, Eddie Saldivar Jr., blasted a three-run home run to tie the game at 5-5.
In the pandemonium of the play, according to Ridgefield, a fan entered the Raptors’ dugout area and yelled expletives at players and coaches. It was enough for Ridgefield to stop the game and get the attention of the umpires, with coaches Chris Cota and Nick Allen, as well as general manager Gus Farah out on the field to sort out the situation.
Farah was also in communication with Portland’s front office staff and security to clear the area.
“I’m just concerned for my guys’ safety and for my guys to react – I don’t want my guys to react,” Farah said after the game. “I would never have interfered the way I did, it’s not my job, but I felt like it was at a point where I better make sure that (the umpires) understood and my guys understood. But, they hung in there. They’re guys of character. They showed it.”
Cooler heads prevailed – for a moment, at least.
Braiden Yukon subbed in for Obrecht on the mound, and was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam with a fly out to center.
With the game still tied, the Raptors went to work.
Austin Caviness and Muench took their bases after getting hit by pitches and a Tsukada sacrifice bunt moved them over to third and second base. Next up was Welker, who connected on a 1-1 pitch with a base hit to center, scoring a pair of runs.
“I think it’s just extra motivation to win, because it feels that much better,” Tsukada said. “There’s no better come back than winning, so that’s one way to keep them quiet.”
Minutes after Ridgefield reclaimed the lead, another verbal altercation between Portland fans and Ridgefield occurred as Safea Mauai was warming up in the batter’s circle, separated only by a net between the stands and field. The game was briefly stopped while a fan and Raptors players began jawing back and forth, before the fan was escorted out of the stadium by security.
Once the game resumed, the Pickles’ offense were unable to counter Ridgefield’s punch. Youkon got two quick outs on Portland in the eighth. Shubert then finished off the inning with a strikeout, and held the Pickles scoreless in the ninth.
“It shows how well we’ve bonded over the summer,” said Parkin, who threw 6 ⅓ innings with six strikeouts, three hits and three earned runs. “We knew coming in what it was going to be like. We were here earlier this summer and it was the same exact thing. Knew the fans were going to be rowdy, usually the players are (but) they were really good today, umpires were great. We just knew we had to stay together to get this win.”
Ridgefield will get a much-needed, two-day break, a rarity for the summer season, before facing the winner of Thursday’s Game 3 between Yakima Valley and Corvallis. If No. 4 seed Yakima Valley wins, Ridgefield would host Saturday’s South Division Championship, but a win for No. 1 Corvallis would have the Knights hosting the Raptors.
What could have been – Portland applied some pressure in the third inning by getting runners on second and third with no outs. Jacob Jacoblonski then hit a sacrifice fly to score Caden Parker, but Saldivar was also called out as he tagged up to third base. Pickles manager Mark Magdaleno disagreed with the call and emerged from the dugout to give the umpires an earful.
A fly out on the next at-bat got the Raptors out of the inning with just one run allowed and still leading 3-2.
Saldivar goes yard – Portland’s leadoff man hit his second homer of the series with a three-run blast to tie the game in the seventh.
Back to business – Following the home run and game delay in the seventh, Ridgefield wasted no time reclaiming the lead on Welker’s two-run base hit scoring Caviness and Muench.
Jake Tsukada – Ridgefield’s leadoff batter from University of Portland had four hits, two RBI and scored two runs.
Travis Welker – The Fresno State product had a team-high three RBI, including the two-run single that gave the Raptors the lead for good in the eighth.
Sawyer Parkin – The right-handed pitcher from Columbia River High and University of Washington threw 100 pitches over 6 ⅓ innings with six strikeouts, three hits and three earned runs.
3 – Wins for the Raptors at Portland’s Walker Stadium in four attempts this season.
5 – Runs scored by Ridgefield with two outs.
210 – Minutes of game action after the first pitch at 7:08 p.m.
RIDGEFIELD 7, PORTLAND 5
Ridgefield 120 200 000—7 10 2
Portland 101 000 300—5 4 2
Pitching – Sawyer Parkin 6.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB; Ryan Obrecht 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 K, 2 BB; Braiden Youkon 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 2 BB; Eli Shubert 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Jake Tsukada 4-4, 2 R, 2 RBI; Travis Welker 1-5, 3 RBI; Trent Prokes 1-5, 2B, RBI; Safea Mauai 2-5, 2B, RBI; Isaac Lovings R; Austin Caviness 1-3, R; Henry Muench 1-2, 3 R, 2B.
Pitching – Freddy Rodriguez 3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Tommy Snyder 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Gary Grosjean 2 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 2K, 1 BB; Kyler Stancato 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB; Evan Tomlinson 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Eddie Saldivar Jr. 2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI; Jacob Jablonski RBI; Evan Leibl 1-3, 2B, RBI; Kyler Stancato R; Caden Parker 2 R.