RIDGEFIELD – When a pitcher and catcher are on the same page like Ben Hart and Isaac Lovings were on Saturday, good things are bound to happen.
The left-handed pitcher Hart got the start for the Ridgefield Raptors and struck out his first five batters on the way to a nine-strikeout, two-hit outing in six innings against the Springfield Drifters.
Behind the plate was Lovings, who, in addition to calling the game, delivered a grand slam in the third inning to blow the game open.
“Me and Isaac were reading each other’s minds,” Hart said. “There wasn’t a lot of shaking off or anything like that. We were on the same page all night, and (I) was able to execute pitches early.”
Their connection set the tone for an eventual 7-1 Ridgefield win over Springfield at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation, the Raptors’ fifth straight victory of the week, with the series finale to be played Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Hart struck out the side in the first inning, which ended with him getting Jordan Justice to swing and miss on three quick pitches. Two more strikeouts followed in the second inning after working back from a pair of 2-0 counts.
“Coming off a week break, I was kind of iffy on how I’d come out and start, but I’m glad I established pitches early and my fastball was working early,” Hart said. “That kind of set the tone. I don’t think I’ve ever struck out the first five guys before – that was kind of cool.”
The only hiccup came on the next batter, Dominic Hellman, who launched a solo home run over the wall in center field to tie the game at 1-1. It turned out to be one of just two hits Hart allowed over six innings, while he retired the final 12 batters faced. The Drifters (14-24) were held to three hits for the game.
With a fly out in center to end the sixth, Hart exited with handshakes and fist bumps from the likes of Lovings and pitching coach Tyler Raskin while also raising his glove to the RORC crowd, indicating his evening was over.
Lovings, meanwhile, turned a one-run game into a 6-1 lead for the Raptors (22-12) in the third inning with a grand slam clearing the fence in right field. Nate Kirkpatrick added Ridgefield’s final run of the night later in the third following a Springfield error.
“(Lovings) being in this league for his (third) year, he knows this park so I kind of trust him, let him call his game and go from there,” Hart said. “He obviously did it at the plate tonight, too, which was cool to see. I just kind of play off of what he does; he’s got a little more knowledge of this yard. It’s a tough place to pitch, but he called a great game and he deserves all the credit, really.”
Down, not out – With two outs and two strikes against him in an 0-2 count, Will Chambers connected on a pitch that settled in an open spot between left and center field, allowing Jacob Sharp to score and give Ridgefield a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Springfield’s lone bright spot – Dominic Hellman, an Oregon commit from Mill Creek, Wash., hit a solo home run for the Drifters in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1.
Grand salami time – On the heels of a Doyle Kane RBI single to load the bases in the third, Isaac Lovings hit a grand slam to right, giving Ridgefield a commanding 6-1 lead.
Ben Hart – Making his first start in over a week, left-handed pitcher from Utah Tech, went six innings with nine strikeouts while allowing just two hits, one earned run and one walk.
Safea Mauai – A 2-for-3 outing, including a double, pushed Mauai’s batting average up to .364 for the season, which ranks third in the West Coast League.
Travis Welker – Leading off the third inning with a double, Welker scored the go-ahead run on Doyle Kane’s RBI single. Kane, Mauai and Chambers then trotted to home plate with Lovings’ grand slam.
5 – Consecutive Springfield batters who struck out against Hart to begin the game, before the left-handed pitcher from Utah Tech gave up a two-out solo home run to Dominic Hellman in the second.
2 – Grand slams hit by Lovings in 23 games with the Raptors this summer. The first came June 11 at Nanaimo in a 17-5 win.
5 – Straight games Ridgefield has scored at least one run in the first inning.
RIDGEFIELD 7, SPRINGFIELD 1
Springfield 010 000 000—1 3 1
Ridgefield 106 000 00x—7 9 0
Pitching – Trevor Barth 4 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER 3 K, 2 BB; Addison Mattix 2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB.; Zach Chonkich 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB; Sheehan O’Connor 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Dominic Hellman 1-3, R, HR, RBI; Nate Stevens 2-3.
Pitching – Ben Hart 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 9 K, 1 BB; Ryan Obrecht 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB; Eastyn Culp 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 2 BB. Highlights – Jacob Sharp 1-4, R; Travis Welker 1-3, R, 2B; Will Chambers 1-3, R, RBI; Safea Mauai 2-3, R, 2B; Doyle Kane 1-2, R, RBI; Isaac Lovings 1-3, R, HR, 4 RBI; Nate Kirkpatrick 1-4, R, 2B; Austin Caviness 1-3, RBI.