PORTLAND — It’s win-or-go-home time for the Ridgefield Raptors.
Following Tuesday’s 10-6 loss to the Portland Pickles in game one of a best-of-three West Coast League Divisional Series, the home ballpark is where the Raptors will return in need of two wins in elimination games to keep their season alive.
“We’re not hitting the panic button at all,” Ridgefield second baseman Jackson Nicklaus said. “We’ve got them for two games at home, and we’re feeling pretty solid.”
The visitors’ strong play through several innings Tuesday kept a typically animated Walker Stadium crowd subdued. Ridgefield scored first in the opening frame, before adding three runs in the third inning on RBI from Jovan Camacho and Nick Seamons, plus heads-up baserunning from Ryan Camacho.
Starting pitcher Charlie Royle found a groove by allowing just one hit and no runs after the first inning. Then, the Raptors took their largest lead of 5-2 on Nick Holm’s RBI single in the top of the sixth.
A dream start unraveled in a hurry. After Royle exited at the end of five innings, six runs scored by the Pickles during the bottom half of the sixth sunk the Raptors.
It started with a leadoff walk given up by Ridgefield reliever Ross Goldschlag, one of three walks the right-hander had. Then, third baseman Jake Tsukada, one of the team’s top defensive players, whiffed while trying to field a ground ball, moving runners over to second and third.
That put Andrew McKenna in position to send in a sacrifice fly, followed by Kyler Stancato’s deep fly ball to center for an RBI double. After Goldschlag gave up a walk to load the bases, he exited in favor of Eastyn Culp with the Raptors clinging to a 5-4 lead.
“I think we competed on all sides of the game,” Nicklaus said. “The six-run inning, I don’t think it really reflects how it happened. … Credit to them, they put the ball in play when they needed to. Ross made competitive pitches all over the zone, didn’t get the calls that he wanted to, but that’s part of it, you know.”
Alejandro Garza’s RBI single and Naighel Calderon’s sacrifice fly gave Portland the lead for good. On a 3-2 count with two outs, Kyle Harvey drove in the final two runs of the inning for an 8-5 lead.
Six days ago in Ridgefield’s final regular season home game, an 8-5 loss to Walla Walla, Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota gave a straightforward assessment of the team’s pitching staff: they needed to throw more strikes. The issue came up again Tuesday.
“You have to attack the zone,” Cota said. “Any time you give up a leadoff walk, you struggle — every single time. So yeah, I think that’s a big part of the issue tonight. We need to throw more strikes.”
Ridgefield got one run back in the seventh when Nicklaus got a fly ball to drop in left field with the bases loaded. One run scored, but Tsukada was tagged out at the plate to end the frame trailing by two runs, a margin that doubled when Portland added two more runs in the bottom half.
“Any time you put up six runs, you have a chance to win, unless you give up 10,” Cota said wry smile. “We’re going to be fine offensively. As long as the next two nights we can throw strikes, I think we’re going to be OK.”
Game two Wednesday in Ridgefield is slated to begin at 6:35 p.m. The Raptors secured home-field advantage for the first-round playoff series by winning the WCL South Division first half. Soon, they’ll find out how valuable that advantage is, or isn’t.
“It’s a long summer,” Cota said, “and I’m not ready to go home.”
No time wasted – Ridgefield struck first in the opening frame with a Jovan Camacho RBI single, which brought in twin brother Ryan Camacho to score.
Caught in a pickle, then escaping a Pickle – Speaking of Ryan Camacho, Ridgefield’s designated hitter scored unconventionally during the team’s three-run third inning. Caught between third base and home plate, Portland tried unsuccessfully to run down Camacho, as he avoided the tag of Portland catcher Andrew McKenna by sliding into home head first.
Sealing the deal – In another bases-loaded situation, Ridgefield gave up a two-run Josh Schleichardt base hit in the eighth to put the Pickles ahead by four runs.
Jovan Camacho – The College of the Canyons product knocked in the first run of the game on a base hit, and added another RBI during a three-run third inning.
Charlie Royle – Making his seventh start of the season, the right-hander from Cal Poly settled in after giving up two runs on three hits during the opening inning. He finished with five strikeouts and one walk, while giving up just one hit after the first inning.
Alejandro Garza – The short stop from Cal Poly went 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead the Pickles.
6 – Ridgefield pitchers who appeared in Tuesday’s game. Following Royle’s five-inning start, Goldschlag, Culp, Oscar Patron, Cale Mathison and Peysen Sweeney all saw time on the mound, though none for more than one inning.
17-10 – Ridgefield’s home record in 27 regular season games at the RORC. The Raptors will need to win Wednesday and Thursday to advance to the next round of the playoffs
7 – Portland starters who had at least one base hit, led by two apiece from Armando Briseño and Garza.