RIDGEFIELD – The Ridgefield Raptors have built a reputation as a late-inning team capable of summoning a rally when needed.
Yet when leaving games up to those final moments becomes routine, occasional disappointments are bound to follow.
Ridgefield’s offense went quiet in the middle innings against the Portland Pickles in a 2-2 game Thursday at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, before the road team broke the stalemate in the top of the ninth by capitalizing on a pair of Ridgefield errors to plate two runs.
That lead was enough for the Pickles to eke out a 4-3 win and avoid a series sweep following two Raptors wins in as many days.
“We always have a ton of belief in ourselves and each other that we’re going to get the job done, especially late,” Ridgefield catcher Riley McCarthy said. “We’ve definitely been a late-inning ball club.”
Ridgefield’s misfortunes in the ninth started when first baseman Doyle Kane committed a fielding error on what appeared to be a routine ground ball.
Dalton Mashore then hit an RBI double off of Ridgefield’s Eli Shubert to score the go-ahead run, before a throwing error from McCarthy to second base allowed Mashore to reach third. Nick Upstill added a single to right field, scoring Mashore, and went to the bottom of the ninth with an extra insurance run.
For a few moments, Ridgefield (14-9) threatened to pull off another last-minute comeback.
Down to their final out with two runners on, Alex Sepulveda delivered an infield RBI single to get one run back. Portland pitcher Gary Grosjean then struck out the following batter, Justin Trimble, to clinch a win for the Pickles (11-8).
“We gave up those two, but there was no lack of belief in the dugout,” McCarthy said. “We all always believe going into the bottom of the ninth, top of the ninth, whatever it is, that we’re going to give ourselves a shot.”
Ridgefield won its fourth straight series, though have yet to pull off a three-game sweep this season.
Following a pair of exhibition games against the NW Star Nighthawks on Saturday and Sunday, the Raptors will open a three-game series against the first-place Corvallis Knights on Tuesday.
Early-inning score – The Raptors scored in the first inning of both previous games against Portland, and waited only until the second to get on the board Thursday.
Trent Prokes and McCarthy got on base with a walk and single, respectively, which set up an Austin Caviness line-drive RBI single to center field. McCarthy then scored on a Sepulveda ground out, giving the Raptors a 2-1 lead.
Throw out at third – Facing the same deficit in the fifth, Portland’s Evan Leibl dropped a base hit down the left field line with runners at first and second. The Pickles scored one run, but thanks to a strong throw from Sepulveda, Ridgefield’s left fielder, the Raptors were able to tag out Jackson Van De Brake at third. The Raptors got out of the inning with a 2-2 tie instead of a deficit.
Left stranded – McCarthy hit a grounder that took one hop in the RORC infield and bounced over Portland second baseman Eddie Saldivar Jr in the seventh for a single. Austin Caviness followed with a base hit, but the following two batters, Alex Sepulveda and Justin Trimble, struck out against Portland’s Nathan Shinn to end the inning.
Ben Hart – The Ridgefield starting pitcher from Dixie State threw six innings with 10 strikeouts, including seven through three innings, with one walk, four hits and two earned runs allowed.
Austin Caviness – The Cal Poly product went 2-for-4 and plated Ridgefield’s first run.
Alex Sepulveda – A Sepulveda single in the bottom of the ninth brought Ridgefield within one run. The College of the Canyons player batted in two of Ridgefield’s three runs.
10 – Strikeouts for Hart, the most by a Ridgefield pitcher in a game this season.
2 – Errors committed by the Raptors in the ninth inning, which helped the Pickles break a 2-2 tie by getting two runs across.
66 – Wins for the Raptors in West Coast League games since joining the league in 2019. Corvallis ranks first, and the two teams will square off in a three-game series starting Tuesday.
PORTLAND 4, RIDGEFIELD 3
Portland 010 010 002—4 8 0
Ridgefield 020 000 000— 3 7 2
Pitching – Kolby Kmetko 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 K, 1 BB; Nathan Shinn 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB; Gary Grosjean 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB. Highlights – Eddie Saldivar Jr. 1-4; Kyle Russell R; Dalton Mashore 2-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI; Nick Upstill 2-4, 2B, RBI; Evan Cloyd 2-3, R, RBI; Evan Leibl 1-4.
Pitching – Ben Hart 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 10 K, 1 BB; Chaz McWilliams 2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB; Eli Shubert 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Jake Tsukada 1-4; Mikey Kane 1-4, R; Trent Prokes R; Riley McCarthy 2-3, R; Austin Caviness 2-4, RBI; Alex Sepulveda 1-4, 2 RBI.