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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Late collapse ends Ridgefield Raptors’ season in WCL playoff sweep to Portland Pickles

Raptors players, coaches cherish relationships built during 2023 summer season

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 9, 2023, 11:45pm

RIDGEFIELD — The wounds were still fresh when Ridgefield Raptors players and coaches gathered on the field for one last post-game huddle.

The Raptors’ 2023 season came to an end Wednesday at the hands of the Portland Pickles in a 10-6 loss, which clinched a West Coast League Divisional Series sweep for the visitors at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

Raptors players listened as team staffers Jason Krohn, Chris Cota and Nick Allen reflected on the season and thanked everyone for their efforts. As players broke from the huddle and began to say their goodbyes to teammates, stoic faces quickly turned to smiles.

Even after a grueling loss, the lasting impression of a long summer season for players was the relationships they made.

“It’s always said that the person makes the player. That really rings true,” Ridgefield outfielder Nick Seamons said. “We have such great people on this team and individuals that it just makes the baseball stuff easy. … We all get along and we enjoyed having fun together, and I think that was a big key to success this year.”

The Raptors had players like Seamons who arrived within the first few weeks of the season and stuck around until the end. Others returned for a second season with the team, such as infielder Jake Tsukada, pitchers Charlie Royle, Sawyer Parkin and Eastyn Culp. Several more joined in the final weeks of the season to fill in for some late-season departures.

All had a hand in the Raptors’ season, which ended with a 33-23 mark for the most wins in team history.

“No matter what summer ball team you’re on, you’re going to go to enjoy the guys and playing baseball with these guys,” Tsukada said. “It’s a little sad, by the time you get really close with them and everybody goes their separate ways. But these are guys I’m going to stay in touch with for a long time. The coaching staff, the fans and (everyone) were a class act here.

“Just not the way we wanted to end, but as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters, right?”

Though Ridgefield suffered a loss in the playoff series opener Tuesday in Portland, also by a 10-6 margin, the team appeared to be rejuvenated upon returning to the RORC Wednesday.

Tsukada led off the first with a single, then scored on a Seamons double to spot the Raptors a quick 1-0 lead. Then came a four-run second inning, which included a Tsukada RBI base hit and Jovan Camacho two-run single. Ridgefield took its largest lead of 6-0 in the third inning on an Evan Leibl RBI single.

Like Tuesday’s game, however, a substantial lead for the Raptors was far from safe. Portland cut it in half by scoring two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. But, once Ridgefield starting pitcher Brock Gillis exited at the end of the sixth inning, is when the Raptors hit the skids.

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Portland tied the game at 6-6 in the seventh inning with a two-run single by pinch hitter Luke Bard and an Alejandro Garza RBI base hit.

Though the Raptors escaped the inning without giving up the lead, the Pickles had plenty of juice by the eighth inning. On a 3-2 count with two outs, Portland’s Josh Schleichardt landed a hooking fly ball to right field inside of foul territory, bringing in Armando Briseno to score the go-ahead run.

Portland added three more runs, all with two outs, on a Bard RBI single and Dalton Mashore two-run single.

“Baseball is imperfect and it’s a game of failure,” Seamons said. “We almost had a perfect first three innings, it was pretty darn good, and then there’s always momentum shifts in baseball. It’s whoever ends up with the last one, and I guess tonight they ended up with the last momentum shift.”

Portland relief pitcher Jared Villalobos retired the last nine Ridgefield batters in order across the final three innings, striking out eight.

Running out of gas late was emblematic of the final weeks of Ridgefield’s season. The Raptors went 5-10 down the stretch of the regular season and playoffs, but in reality, the team that played late in the season looked a lot different than the one that won 11 games in a row and won the WCL South Division first half.

Player turnover is always part of summer collegiate baseball, but of course, building cohesion is a challenge teams face.

“You try to get used to it,” Tsukada said. “When we were rolling, that team was solid. But there’s nothing you can do, guys got to go to other places … You just try to make the most of every opportunity and that’s what we tried to do.”

But, it’s a credit to (Chris) Cota, Nick (Allen) and Jason (Krohn) that they picked the right guys and they brought in the right people,” Seamons added. “Because even though it was a different team, it was still a good team, a good vibe and a good atmosphere.”

WEDNESDAY’S BOXSCORE: Pickles 10, Raptors 6