PORTLAND – Put this win into the feel-good category for the Ridgefield Raptors.
Ridgefield did the little things to stop a little slump Wednesday. The Raptors got good pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting to beat the Portland Pickles 4-2 after dropping three of their last four games.
After a rough 11-1 loss in the series opener Tuesday, Ridgefield silenced a Walker Stadium crowd of nearly 3,000 buzzing from the Pickles’ celebration of National Bourbon Day and Woof Wednesday, when fans bring their dogs to the ballpark.
A shot of bourbon with a chaser of pickle juice was the drink special of the day. But Ridgefield starting pitcher Nate Wenzel was like a straight-laced neighbor putting a damper on the Portland party.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander threw six solid innings, allowing a single run in the first inning, walking none and striking out four.
“Today was just my day,” Wenzel said. “I thank God for giving me these opportunities. I established the fastball early, got comfortable and once I settled in, all the other pitches took care of themselves.”
Wenzel has been one of Ridgefield’s most dependable pitchers early in the season. Through 13 innings, he has an earned-run average of 1.38 and has seven strikeouts to one walk.
Behind Wenzel, Ridgefield (5-6) turned in one of its best defensive games of the year. A team that has made 21 errors this season, third worst in the league, was flawless.
The Raptors turned three double plays, including in the ninth when a Portland runner was cut down trying to return to first after a sacrifice fly, neutering a potential Pickles rally.
In the third inning, Raptors left fielder Tristan Gomes made a leaping catch against the left field fence. That sent a charge through a Ridgefield team that managed just three hits the previous night.
“That was great,” Wenzel said. “You always love it when the defense backs you up. Making that catch at the wall was huge.”
After having just one hit in the first four innings, Ridgefield’s bats woke up in the fifth. After one-out walks by Julian Nunez and Royce Clayton Jr., Jake Tsukada laced a sharp RBI single to left field. Jackson Nicklaus followed with an RBI single to center field to put Ridgefield ahead 2-1.
“It’s always satisfying to win no matter how it’s done, whether it’s through pitching or hitting,” Wenzel said. “We’ve got great hitters so that’s going to come around. And there were guys that came in after me who did their job.”
Pressley Monteforte relieved Wenzel in the seventh and twice escaped trouble.
After stranding a runner on third in the seventh, Monteforte got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. He got Portland’s No. 5 hitter and newly crowned West Coast League player of the week Jack Metcho to ground out to Nunez at shortstop.
Ridgefield took a 4-1 lead in the ninth, scoring two runs on a bases-loaded infield single by Andy Allanson. Jake Tsukada scored from second base after Allanson beat out the first baseman’s toss to the pitcher.
Cale Mathison worked the ninth to earn his first save of the season.