LONGVIEW – The Ridgefield Raptors were patient in their approach to a new series on Friday against the Cowlitz Black Bears, following a pair of losses two days prior.
Ridgefield lost two straight to the Bend Elks, but had plenty of positives to take away from both in close, 10-9, 5-3 losses.
In Friday’s series opener at David Story Field, the pieces fell into place.
After spotting the Black Bears a 1-0 lead through the first inning, the Raptors held the home team scoreless for the ensuing six innings and earned a 4-2 win. With four wins over Cowlitz in the best-of-seven season series, Ridgefield also clinched the Columbia River Cup over its rival.
“We weren’t too worried. Those games that we lost were really close, like one or two runs,” Ridgefield catcher Isaac Lovings said. “We were hitting the ball, just weren’t finding holes (and) they were hit right at guys. We knew we were still rolling … Today we just had to put it all together and maximize it when we had guys in scoring position. And we did.”
Ridgefield (24-15) broke a 1-1 tie with a Lovings RBI single in the sixth inning, which came after Trent Prokes led off the inning with a double and Safea Mauai followed with a single.
Although three runners were left stranded with a Cowlitz double play to end the frame, the Raptors
Another leadoff double, this time from Jacob Sharp was followed by a Travis Welker RBI single. Prokes then tacked on his second double of the game to score Welker.
“Those guys are the fire-starters,” Lovings said. “Huge, huge, especially Trent and Jacob, those two-out knocks, one-out knocks, extra base hits and then finding ways to get further into scoring position.”
Cowlitz (16-23) scored first on an Alec Arnone single up the third base line in the first inning, which came after Cowlitz got two runners on with a single and an error by Ridgefield pitcher Nate Weeldreyer attempting to make a catch and tag at first base.
Weeldryer, who was activated on Friday and made his first start for Ridgefield, kept the Black Bears scoreless for the rest of his three-inning stint, and relief pitcher Andy Evans followed with three scoreless innings.
“It took me that first inning to figure out the new guy we had on the bump and what worked for him, on top of just getting used to the new lineup we had to face,” Lovings said. “Once we got past the first inning, I realized, OK, we can work certain pitches here, there and setting up the defense to make plays.”
Getting out of a jam – Cowlitz loaded the bases against Ridgefield relief pitcher Andy Evans in the fourth. The Raptors’ defense kept the Black Bears from scoring with a 6-4-3 double play to end the frame.
A taste of their own medicine – Ridgefield took a 2-1 lead in the sixth thanks to Isaac Lovings’ RBI single into the left field corner, and the Raptors were in position to add more runs with the bases loaded and one out. Stephen Espinoza then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Reliable Raptors – Doubles from Jacob Sharp and Trent Prokes sparked Ridgefield’s two-run seventh inning. Travis Welker hit an RBI base hit to score Sharp, then crossed home plate thanks to Prokes’ double.
Trent Prokes – Prokes (CSU Bakersfield) led off the sixth with a double and added another extra base hit in the seventh to give the Raptors a 4-1 lead. Prokes finished 3-for-4.
Nate Weeldreyer – The right-handed pitcher from Gonzaga made his first start and went three innings with two strikeouts while giving up three hits and one run.
Safea Mauai – Mauai’s bases-loaded single in the third inning scored Stephen Espinoza to tie the game at 1-1. The BYU player went 2-for-5 batting cleanup for the Raptors.
13 – Hits for the Raptors, nearly double Cowlitz’s output, though they also left nine runners on base.
9 – Doubles for both Prokes and Sharp this season, which is tied for fourth in the West Coast League, and second best on the Raptors behind Mikey Kane’s 10 doubles.
4 – Ridgefield wins over Cowlitz this season with Friday’s victory, clinching the Columbia River Cup in the best-of-seven season series. Ridgefield defeated Cowlitz in the team’s June 1 exhibition game, then won two of three games over the Black Bears in a June series at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
RIDGEFIELD 4, COWLITZ 2
Ridgefield 001 001 200—4 13 3
Cowlitz 100 000 100—2 6 0
Pitching – Nate Weeldreyer 3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 0 BB; Andy Evans 3 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Jeter Schuerman 1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 2 BB; Gary Hall 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Jacob Sharp 3-4, R, 2B; Travis Welker 1-3, R, RBI; Trent Prokes 4-5, R 2 2B, RBI; Safea Mauai 2-5, RBI; Isaac Lovings 1-4, RBI, Austin Caviness 1-2; Stephen Espinoza 1-4, R.
Pitching – Raul Herrada 5 IP, 9 H, 2 ER 4 K, 1 BB; Brandon Wedge 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Andrew Del Biaggio 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Calyn Halvorson 1-3, R; Sam Canton 1-3; Alex Arnone 1-4, RBI; Cade McGee 2-4; John Oleson 1-3; Brock Bozett R.