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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Rollercoaster series opener ends in walk-off win for Ridgefield Raptors over Cowlitz

Jackson Nicklaus hits two-RBI single to send Raptors to 7-6 win

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 16, 2023, 10:57pm

RIDGEFIELD — Frustration turned to jubilation twice for the Ridgefield Raptors.

By the end of a rollercoaster series opener Friday against the Cowlitz Black Bears, the Raptors walked off with a win.

Jackson Nicklaus’ one-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth drove in two runs to send the Raptors to a 7-6 win at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, capping a game that had three lead changes in the final two innings.

“Me personally as a hitter, whenever I have runners in scoring position with less than two outs, I want to be aggressive, I don’t want to be hitting defensively,” said Nicklaus, who joined the Raptors this week from Oklahoma. “I knew we were down one, so my main goal right there was just trying to elevate a ball and score the guy from third to tie the game up, so I was going to hunt early.”

The Raptors (7-6) went from hunters to hunted in the top of the seventh inning when Cowlitz opened up a 4-1 lead. The Black Bears scored a pair of runs on a balk called against Ridgefield pitcher Joseph Jasso and an AJ Singer RBI single.

22 Photos
Raptors pitcher Joseph Jasso throws the ball Friday, June 16, 2023, during the Raptors’ game against Cowlitz at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
WCL: Ridgefield Raptors vs. Cowlitz Black Bears Photo Gallery

The two called balks prompted Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota to have a lengthy conversation with the home plate umpire. After the second call, Ridgefield assistant coach Nick Allen was ejected by the home plate umpire. Allen said after the game he didn’t say anything to the umpires.

Additionally, Ridgefield was twice called for violations of the West Coast League’s 20-second action clock institued this season: once in the fifth inning when Reiss Calvin was at the plate, and again in the seventh inning when Jasso was getting ready to deliver a pitch.

Those instances were the first time in 13 games this season the Raptors have been called for clock violations, Cota said.

“It’s an emotional game, everybody knows that,” Nicklaus said. “There’s a lot of ups and downs, and more often than not, it’s more downs than ups. It’s all about taking it one pitch at a time. It’s a cliché. There was a lot of craziness going on, a lot of confusion on our part, because we didn’t really know what was going on. We were on the field for most of it.”

“It was a little bit confusing, but obviously you can’t argue with the umpires,” Ridgefield’s Andy Ambriz added. “Obviously there’s some calls you don’t agree with, but it is what it is.”

Cowlitz (5-8) forced Ridgefield into two quick outs in the eighth, before the Raptors mounted the first of their two rallies.

Nicklaus got on base with a walk, before Isaac Lovings and Nick Seamons followed with singles to load the bases.

Ridgefield got within two runs on a wild pitch from Cowlitz’s Riley Roskopf, then took a 5-4 lead on a clutch three-run homer from Ambriz, his first of the season.

“We’ve definitely come around, we believe in each other and we definitely have a really good team,” Ambriz said. “We know that we’re not out of any game.”

Ridgefield’s lead was fleeting, however, when Cowlitz loaded the bases in the ninth and chased Ridgefield reliever Logan Saloman out of the game on a bases-loaded, game-tying walk to score Max Ortega.

The Black Bears took a 6-5 lead on a wild pitch from Ridgefield’s Logan Valtierra, before the Raptors got the final two outs on a ground out and fly out.

Ridgefield’s rally in the bottom half was their second walk-off win of the season. It was proof, in the words of Ambriz, of a team that can go down, but can rarely be counted out.

“We’re getting to know each other a lot better as a group. When you create those bonds, it makes it easier to play for the guy next to you,” Nicklaus said. “Talking about our resiliency, we’re all winners here, I mean, everyone is a good baseball player, and we just want to come out here and have fun.”

Ridgefield (7-6) was won three of its last four games ahead of game two in the series Saturday.

Three moments

Welcome to the RORC – In his first home game with the Raptors, Nicklaus (Oklahoma) cracked a solo home run to right field to give the Raptors a 1-0 lead in the second.

Bear down – The Black Bears took their first lead of the game in the sixth. Ian Riley led off with a base hit, stole second base to get in scoring position, then got to home plate on an Ethan Mann RBI single.

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Early exit – Cowlitz scored two runs in the seventh inning on a balk charged to Ridgefield pitcher Joseph Jasso and an AJ Singer RBI single. Umpires called two balks during the inning, and moments after the second instance, Allen was ejected from the dugout by the home plate umpire.

Three players

Jake Tsukada – Typically an infielder in Ridgefield’s lineup, Tsukada got a rare night as Ridgefield’s designated hitter and delivered a team-high three hits, including a lead-off base hit in the ninth.

Dylan Stewart – Making his third start of the season with the Raptors, the Pepperdine right-handed pitcher had an effective five innings with eight strikeouts, one walk, four hits and one earned run allowed.

Andy Ambriz – The infielder from College of the Canyons went 2-for-3 with a clutch three-run home run in the eighth to give Ridgefield a 5-4 lead.

Three numbers

5 – Ridgefield players with two or more hits: Tsukada, Quincy Scott, Isaac Lovings, Nicklaus and Ambriz.

10 – Innings pitched by Stewart this season without giving up an earned run. That streak was broken when Cowlitz scored in the third inning.

2 – Wins for Ridgefield against Cowlitz in the seven-game season series. The first team to four wins earns the Columbia River Cup.

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