LONGVIEW – Had you only watched the Ridgefield Raptors’ first inning on Saturday, it would’ve been safe to assume they were in for a big night offensively against the Cowlitz Black Bears.
Three straight base hits from Jacob Sharp, Travis Welker and Trent Prokes set the table for two Ridgefield runs on RBI from Safea Mauai and Riley McCarthy, giving the visitors a quick 2-0 lead at David Story Field.
Those hits would ultimately represent nearly half of Ridgefield’s total output for the night, and be the only runs scored in a 3-2 loss to Cowlitz.
Combined with a pair of losses to the Bend Elks on Wednesday and Thursday, all three of the Raptors’ losses this week have been decided by two runs or less.
“We just didn’t come up with the big hit today, and that happens in baseball,” Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota said. “Their pitcher threw a good game and kept us at bay. We had some chances and just didn’t come through … Our guys will be ready to go tomorrow.”
Cowlitz starting pitcher Jon Mocherman earned the win after navigating a bumpy first inning, and ultimately held Ridgefield to three hits over the next five innings on the mound. Relievers Alex Brady and Jadon Williamson kept Ridgefield scoreless in the final three innings with just two hits allowed.
Cowlitz did all of its damage in the first two innings with an Aaron Parker home run in the bottom of the first and a Ben Zeigler solo shot one inning later off of Ridgefield starter Sawyer Parkin.
Parkin stayed in for 6 1/3 innings and threw 75 pitches (48 strikes) with two strikeouts, two walks and five hits allowed.
“He settled down. He left a couple pitches up and they got the ball out of the park,” Cota said. “But he settled in and pitched well from there on out.”
Ridgefield (24-16) came up one game short of clinching a playoff berth in the first half of the season, and has since treaded water in the second half with an 8-6 record.
The Raptors sit in a tie for fourth place in the West Coast League South Division with the Walla Walla Sweets, while three teams, Corvallis Knights, Portland Pickles and Yakima Valley Pippins are all in a tie for first place.
With three playoff spots still up for grabs in the division, teams still in the hunt have to manage playing time on deep rosters while also making a push in the final stretch of the regular season. For the Raptors, Cota said players’ roles have mostly been established at this point in the season.
“It gets tough because everyone is trying to win a championship,” Cota said. “For the most part, I think a lot of our guys at this time kind of know their role. They’re grinding away too, even though some of them aren’t playing as much as others.”
The Raptors will also have another player to plug back into the lineup for Sunday’s game in second baseman Jake Tsukada, who’s been sidelined since July 1 while nursing a shoulder injury, Cota said. In 14 games with the Raptors, Tsukada is hitting .333 with nine RBI.
Matching runs for runs – Three straight singles from Sharp, Welker and Prokes to start the game yielded two Ridgefield runs. Cowlitz, however, put two runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning with an Aaron Parker two-run home run.
Another homer for the home team – Cowlitz’s Ben Zeigler gave the Black Bears the lead for good with a solo home run in the second inning, clearing the 367-foot fence in right center field.
Empty inning – Ridgefield left two runners on base in the eighth after Prokes dropped a double into the left field corner and Riley McCarthy earned a walk. Cowlitz reliever Jadon Williamson got Mikey Kane to fly out to right for the third out.
Jon Mocherman – After giving up two runs in the first inning, Cowlitz’s starting pitcher went six innings and scattered three hits across the ensuing five, with four strikeouts and two walks.
Calyn Halvorson – A two-out Halvorson triple in the first inning brought some much-needed energy to the Black Bears’ dugout, and Parker followed with a home run on the next at-bat. Halvorson finished 2-for-3.
Doyle Kane – As one of three Raptors with multiple hits, Kane led off the second and ninth innings with singles. The latter put the tying run on base, but Cowlitz subsequently made the out at second on a fielder’s choice.
8 – Games the Raptors have lost this season by one or two runs. Three of those losses have come this week.
2 – Home runs hit by Cowlitz in Saturday’s game.. The Black Bears had 19 homers in 39 games prior to Saturday.
1398 – Estimated attendance on Saturday at David Story Field, more than double Cowlitz’s average of 576 for the season.
COWLITZ 3, RIDGEFIELD 2
Ridgefield 200 000 000—2 8 1
Cowlitz 210 000 00x—3 6 1
Pitching – Sawyer Parkin 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 K, 2 BB; Ryan Obrecht 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Jacob Sharp 1-5, R; Travis Welker 2-4, R; Trent Prokes 2-4, 2B; Safea Mauai RBI; Riley McCarthy 1-3, RBI; Doyle Kane 2-3.
Pitching – Jon Mocherman 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER 4 K, 2 BB; Alex Brady 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB; Jadon Williamson 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Austin Smith 1-4; Calyn Halvorson 2-4, R, 3B; Aaron Parker 1-4, R, HR, 2 RBI; Aaron Zeigler 1-3, R, HR, RBI; Nick Miller 1-2.