LONGVIEW — The Ridgefield Raptors know well what a walk-off win feels like. They’ve delivered four of them already this season.
But in the past two days against the Cowlitz Black Bears, the Raptors have been given a dose of their own medicine. Twice.
On Tuesday, it was Brandon Larson delivering a two-out double to send the Black Bears to an 8-7, walk-off win in the second game of a doubleheader. A back-and-forth game Wednesday at David Story Field ended in the same fashion, with Ian Riley sending a base hit into left field to bring in Travis Moore for a 4-3 win.
Tough as it is to lose in that fashion, the Raptors (29-15) were quick to shrug it off.
“Two tough ones we would’ve liked to get, but it’s a long summer,” Ridgefield catcher Cole Sheehan said. “You can only look forward to tomorrow and even up the series 2-2.”
A clean defensive performance combined with a solid performance on the mound from starter Joseph Jasso had Ridgefield cruising through seven shutout innings. The Raptors took a 2-0 lead on a Julian Nunez two-run single in the third inning, scoring Sheehan and Jack Salmon.
One inning was enough to unravel what the Raptors built. AJ Singer’s two-out, two-run double to the left field forced a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth.
After Ridgefield made a pitching change, bringing on Cale Mathison in place of Andy Gonzalez, Cowlitz’s Tuesday night hero, Larson, followed with another double to give the Black Bears their first lead of the night.
“Any time you only give up three runs in a game, you hope to hit well enough to get the W,” Sheehan said. “So yeah, it was a good (overall) performance from our pitchers.”
Though the Raptors were dealt another walk-off loss, they were only in that position by extending the game in the top of the ninth. Jake Tsukada provided the spark by slashing a double down the right field line, then stole third base with one out.
Two batters later, Jackson Nicklaus dropped a base hit in center field and Tsukada jogged in to score the tying run.
Ridgefield stranded two runners, however, when Corey Nunez grounded into a double play to end the frame.
“Our team, we’re fortunate to have some really good guys,” Sheehan said. “Jake rips a double and steals third — he’s such a gamer — and Jackson gets him in. Couldn’t draw it up any better way.”
Ridgefield’s playoff position is already secure by virtue of winning the West Coast League first-half South Division, while Cowlitz (24-20) is currently in the thick of the playoff race. If the regular season ended Wednesday, Cowlitz would be one of the South Division’s two wild card teams and face Ridgefield in the opening round series.
The four-game series concludes Thursday at Story Field. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
Leadoff singles set the table – The bottom of Ridgefield’s order, Cole Sheehan and Jack Salmon, led off the third inning with back-to-back singles. Two batters later, Julian Nunez delivered a single that scored a pair of runs, including a slide from Salmon to beat the tag at the plate.
Crisis averted – Ridgefield starting pitcher Joseph Jasso gave up a pair of singles to Ian Riley and LeTrey McCollum, plus a walk to load the bases in the bottom of the third. Jasso then got behind in a 3-0 count, but the Raptors defense backed him up with a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and hold the Black Bears scoreless.
Call overturned – The Raptors appeared to score their third run of the game in the fifth when a pitch got behind home plate, allowing Cole Sheehan to jog in from third base. But after discussion between Cowlitz manager Kelly Stinnett and the umpires, the call was reversed to a foul ball on Ridgefield batter Julian Nunez. The frame ended with a Nunez strike out and Jackson Nicklaus line out.
Julian Nunez – The Pepperdine commit helped the Raptors gain an early lead with a two-RBI base hit in the third. Nunez finished 1-for-3 with a walk.
Jake Tsukada – Clutch play from Ridgefield’s leadoff man gave the Raptors a chance late in the game. Tsukada, a Hawaii commit, hit a double and later scored the tying run in the ninth as part of a 2-for-3 effort.
Jack Salmon – Hitting in the nine hole, the outfielder from Golden West College went 2-for-3 and scored a run.
2 – Walk-off wins for Cowlitz in the last two games against Ridgefield.
3 – Double plays completed by the Ridgefield defense.
.369 – Jake Tsukada’s season batting average in 43 games, which is the third best mark in the West Coast League, trailing only Cowlitz’s LeTrey McCollum (.400) and Victoria’s Hudson Shupe (.371).