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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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Raptors Notebook: Players fight though ebbs, flows of summer season

Ridgefield one week away from playoff baseball

By , Columbian staff writer

RIDGEFIELD — After the Ridgefield Raptors suffered their fourth straight loss and were held without a run Friday against the Springfield Drifters, Raptors outfielder Trent Prokes remained optimistic about the team’s trajectory.

“This team, we just don’t like losing,” Prokes said Friday after the 5-0 defeat. “Grinding out games like this, it’s kind of hard but we’ll get through it. It’s just a little bump in the road.”

In his second season with the Raptors, Prokes understands the ebbs and flows of a long summer season in the West Coast League better than most. He saw the Raptors heat up late in the 2022 season and put together their deepest playoff run to date.

This summer, he was part of the Raptors’ 11-game win streak in June that propelled the team to the WCL South Division first-half title and an automatic playoff berth.

So despite Ridgefield dealing with its longest losing streak of the season, Prokes’ comments conveyed a belief that the team’s struggles were temporary.

He was right.

The Raptors broke out of their slump the following night in a 4-2 win at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, with Jovan Camacho’s go-ahead, two-run base hit in the eighth inning proving to be the defining play of the game. They closed out the series with an 8-1 win over the Drifters on Sunday. Henry Muench and Jake Tsukada each went 2-for-4 with a double, and Muench had two RBI.

“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,” said Camacho, who, along with twin brother Ryan Camacho, joined the Raptors last week in the latest wave of player additions. Both played for two seasons at College of the Canyons under Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota.

Whether the recent losing skid is cause for concern, or a little bump in the road, like Prokes said, the Raptors undoubtedly feel better now with their two recent results heading into the final week of the regular season.

Ridgefield will host the Walla Walla Sweets in their final homestand of the season for a three-game series starting Tuesday. Then, the Raptors close out the regular season with a Friday through Sunday road series against the Corvallis Knights.

The final week of the regular season will also be an opportunity for the Raptors to solidify their lineup ahead of the playoffs, which begin Aug. 8. At this stretch of the season, some players often finish up their summer season early to return to their college programs.

As a result, the Raptors replenished their roster with a string of recent additions including the Camacho brothers, Muench (Portland), Nick Holm (Linfield), Massimo Vega (MSU Denver), Ryder Edwards (George Fox), Drew Townson (Bakersfield College), Nicholas Prater (Puget Sound/Skyview), Dillon Kirksey (Centralia College/Ridgefield) and Riley Fender (Clark College/La Center).

Playoff picture

Joining first-half division winners Ridgefield and Bellingham, the Wenatchee AppleSox, Victoria HarbourCats and Corvallis Knights have all clinched playoff berths, leaving three spots up for grabs (two in the South Division, one in the North Division).

The Cowlitz Black Bears, which took three of four games against Ridgefield last week, is also on the verge of clinching their first playoff berth since 2011. After earning a series sweep against the Portland Pickles over the weekend, the Black Bears need just one win to reach the playoffs.

Ridgefield will be the No. 1 seed for the WCL Divisional Series, which begins Aug. 8 at the lower-seeded team’s home ballpark. Game 2 will be played at the RORC on Aug. 9, and game 3, if necessary, Aug. 10.

With Cowlitz’s move up the South Division standings, Portland is currently slated as Ridgefield’s divisional series opponent. The Bend Elks (22-26) also remain in contention, but are 3½ games back of Portland (25-22) for the final South Division playoff spot.

Although the Raptors have the top seed for the opening round series, home-field advantage for the WCL Division Championship and WCL Championship games are determined by overall season winning percentage.

Among South Division teams, Corvallis (.708) has a higher win percentage than Ridgefield (.646). Three North Division teams, Wenatchee (.729), Victoria (.681) and Bellingham (.660), are also slotted higher than Ridgefield.

Stat spotlight

Despite recent woes at the plate, Ridgefield remains in the upper echelon of 16 WCL teams in a few offensive categories.

Ridgefield ranks third in team batting average (.263), fourth in slugging percentage (.349) and sixth in on-base percentage (.377). For the sake of comparison, Ridgefield finished the 2022 season ranked first in all of those categories.

In their own words

“We were playing down with a different team, (Chris Cota) 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. It’s really just a blessing to be out here. I was just looking for an opportunity, and hopefully we can keep on going.”

— Ridgefield outfielder Jovan Camacho, on he and twin brother Ryan Camacho’s decision to join the Raptors late in the season.