RIDGEFIELD — After four straight taxing losses, the Ridgefield Raptors and their fans needed something to celebrate.
Recently-acquired outfielder Jovan Camacho was the right man for the job.
Tied at 2-2 in the eighth inning Saturday at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, the Raptors worked the Springfield Drifters for a pair of walks and a Jackson Nicklaus single to put two runners in scoring position. Two batters later, Camacho battled Eli Holbert to a full count, then swung on the payoff pitch and connected with a base hit through the gap into right field.
Julian Nunez and Nicklaus sprinted in to home plate, giving the Raptors a 4-2 lead, their first of the series. This one was theirs to keep, as reliever Camden Oram retired the Drifters in the ninth to snap the four-game losing skid before a crowd of 1,432 spectators.
“The atmosphere here, it’s crazy, it’s something I’ve never really been a part of before. I’m glad we were able to come in and put an end to that losing streak,” Camacho said. “They (Springfield) were a tough team. They did really well. We were just fortunate enough to come out on top today.”
The Raptors (30-17) were in need of a reset after Friday’s series opener when they were shut out by the Drifters (20-26), despite stringing together nine hits.
On Saturday, they didn’t fare much better at the start. Though Ridgefield starting pitcher Charlie Royle put together six shutout innings with six strikeouts, the Raptors ran into a buzzsaw against Springfield starting pitcher Hunter Dryden.
The right-hander held Ridgefield without a hit over the first four innings while throwing a potent combo of pitches topping out at 97 miles per hour. Dryden exited after 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts, two walks and just one hit allowed.
The Raptors, however, stayed composed at the plate, and their efforts eventually paid off.
They faced a 2-0 deficit midway through the seventh inning after Springfield’s Drew Johnson hit a two-out, two-run single in the top half. Camacho drew a walk and Corey Nunez followed with a single, before Cole Sheehan roped a double down the first base line, bringing in a pair of runs to tie the game at 2-2.
“People started shortening up their swings,” Camacho said. “The first guy (Dryden), he was throwing pretty firm, so the most we could do is shorten up and hope for the best. Just really take some unselfish at-bats and get it going for the team.”
Ridgefield made the most of its five hits, including two from Camacho, who’s tallied multiple hits in all three games played with the Raptors. Camacho, along with twin brother Ryan Camacho, played two seasons at College of the Canyons under Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota. With a string of player departures in recent weeks in Ridgefield, an opportunity presented itself for both to get some playing time in the West Coast League at a critical juncture of the season.
“He’s been one of our favorite guys, he’s a really good coach,” Jovan Comacho said of Cota. “We were playing down with a different team, he gave us a call and our summer was basically over in California. We figured, why not? It’s just another opportunity to try to find a school to play at.”
With the series tied at 1-1 between the Raptors and Drifters, the rubber match will be played Sunday at 1:05 p.m.