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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Ridgefield Raptors slugger Jacob Sharp named Co-MVP of West Coast League

UNLV catcher/outfielder is first MVP in Raptors team history after leading the WCL with 14 home runs

By , Columbian staff writer

RIDGEFIELD – Jacob Sharp’s final game with the Ridgefield Raptors started much like his first: with a home-run blast over the fence at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

Raptors fans became well-acquainted with the hitting prowess of the UNLV catcher and outfielder from Whittier, Calif. over the 2022 season, from the opening June 1 exhibition game against the Cowlitz Black Bears, which included a pair of homers, through the end of the regular season when Ridgefield topped the Corvallis Knights 4-3 on Aug. 7, thanks, in part, to a Sharp solo home run in the first inning.

Sharp was named Co-MVP of the West Coast League along with Wenatchee AppleSox second baseman Joichiro Oyama after hitting a league-leading 14 home runs in 42 games with 55 hits (13 doubles), 40 RBI, a .437 on-base percentage and .688 slugging percentage.

In the Raptors’ three-year history, Sharp is the first player to be named MVP, which is determined by WCL coaches and executives.

“Jacob Sharp’s consistent ability to find his barrel night in and night out made it quickly apparent to our organization that we had a game changing player on our hands,” Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota said in the WCL news release. “Along with his offensive prowess, Jacob’s arm was a threat at the catcher position and in the outfield. He also possesses the extra tool of humble confidence: he expects to impact a game every time out. We expect big things from him this season at UNLV.”

Ridgefield had no shortage of bats in its lineup, as shown by its league-best .295 team batting average, though Sharp had a knack for sparking the Raptors at timely moments.

Sharp provided several signature moments in a June 28 win over the Portland Pickles by hitting a pair of home runs and scoring the game-winning run on a wild pitch for a walk-off, 8-7 win.

He also hit three home runs in a three-game series sweep of the Bellingham Bells July 12-14 to kick off the second half of the season.

The hitters-friendly confines of the RORC were favorable to Sharp as well. He hit all but one of his home runs at the ballpark. The 14 homers established a new Raptors team record and was also one shy of the WCL record set by Bellingham’s Chase Illig in 2017.

“Coming from California, I got to say I love hitting in Washington,” Sharp told The Columbian in a June 28 interview. “I love hitting in Ridgefield, that’s the main thing.”

The WCL’s other Co-MVP, Oyama (UC Irvine), played in all 54 of Wenatchee’s regular-season and postseason games, batted .339 while leading the WCL in runs, walks, and triples. Oyama also set a league record with 42 stolen bases.

WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer remarked earlier this season that Oyama is “the most dynamic player I’ve seen during my four seasons with (the WCL).”

Both Wenatchee and Ridgefield swept their WCL Divisional Series opponents to reach the Division Championship games. Wenatchee then lost to Bellingham and Ridgefield was defeated by Corvallis. The Knights went on to capture their sixth straight WCL title in a 5-0 win over Bellingham on Monday.

Bellingham’s Trevin Hope (Lewis-Clark State) was named the WCL Pitcher of the Year. The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher had a league-best 2.24 ERA with a 4-1 record in nine outings. His only loss came July 14 against the Raptors.

Following Wednesday’s announcements, the All-WCL teams will be released on Thursday, followed by an announcement of the League’s Top Prospect, Coach of the Year Executive of the Year and Team Sportsmanship Award on Friday.

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