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Two innings sink Ridgefield Raptors in 13-4 loss to Edmonton Riverhawks

Riverhawks score 11 unanswered runs across sixth and seventh, limit Raptors to 4 hits

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 4, 2024, 10:55pm

RIDGEFIELD — Trouble began when the Ridgefield Raptors turned to their bullpen, and two forgettable innings later, a once-promising lead was history.

Protecting a two-run lead Tuesday against the Edmonton Riverhawks after starter Dylan Stewart tossed five quality innings, Ridgefield relievers Drew Townson and Mac Elske combined to give up 10 runs (eight earned) across the sixth and seventh innings, allowing the Riverhawks to roar back for a 13-4 win and tie the series at 1-1.

“We played a little small ball early, which worked out for us, and then we just let a couple innings get away from us,” Ridgefield coach Chris Cota said. “I just got done telling the pitchers we need to be able to land our second or third pitch, and not just the fastball.”

Ridgefield’s unraveling began in the sixth inning in odd fashion. Townson was called for a balk with the bases loaded only for the field umpire to reverse the call following a brief chat with Cota on the field.

Then, the floodgates opened for the Riverhawks (2-3). Edmonton’s Rex Watson, who led the Riverhawks with three RBI on three hits, drove in two runs to tie the game at 4-4, Russell Young added an RBI and Watson scored on a wild pitch to put the visitors ahead 6-4, a lead that stood up for the rest of the game.

Elske took Townson’s place on the mound to start the seventh and got two quick outs. But the Riverhawks did their most damage from there, putting seven more runs on the board during a stretch that included RBI singles from Watson, Young and Demitri Shakotko, plus a bases-loaded walk that ended Elske’s outing.

Stewart, a right-handed pitcher from Pepperdine, made his first start of the season in his return to Ridgefield following a 2023 campaign in which he earned West Coast League first team honors.

Though Stewart didn’t have his best stuff Wednesday, Cota said, he kept the Raptors (1-3) afloat by allowing five hits and two earned runs, both coming in the fifth on a Mahidutt Tabata RBI ground-rule double and Russell Young RBI to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead. Stewart exited with the Raptors in front 4-2 following a three-run third inning.

“He competed well, kept us in the ball game and that’s all we could ask for his first time out,” Cota said.

Though they were held to just three hits against Edmonton starter Jonah Prokott, the Raptors put two runners on to open the third when Cal Pickhardt led off with a base hit and Justin Tsukada was hit by a pitch.

The Raptors called for a sacrifice bunt put through by Kyle Memarian, which led to Pickhardt scoring from a wayward Prokott throw that got behind third base for an error. Tsukada later scored on a fielder’s choice put in play by Jack Nehler and Luke Iverson scored on another Riverhawks error, giving Ridgefield a 4-2 lead.

The Raptors’ bats have been inconsistent through four games, so small ball paid off when they needed to manufacture some runs.

“That’s why we’re playing small ball,” Cota said, “Just move guys over, hope for a big hit at the time. They had a big error when we were moving guys over. And normally when you play for one, you get two or three.”