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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

Raptors Notebook: New players mixing into lineup

Summer ball brings an ever-changing roster; combined no-no highlights week

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 17, 2024, 6:05pm
3 Photos
Ridgefield's Taylor Takata, right, celebrates with Kyle Memarian after turning a double play Tuesday June 11, 2024, during the Raptors’ 10-0 win against Yakima Valley Pippins at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Ridgefield's Taylor Takata, right, celebrates with Kyle Memarian after turning a double play Tuesday June 11, 2024, during the Raptors’ 10-0 win against Yakima Valley Pippins at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — Three weeks into the 2024 season, Ridgefield Raptors coaches and front office staff are still in the process of evaluating players to determine their fit and role within the team.

The Raptors welcomed four new position players to the fold last week ahead of a three-game home series against the Yakima Valley Pippins on June 11-13. All four players — infielders Patrick Engskov (Oklahoma), Taylor Takata (Hawai’i), Richard Tejeda (USC) and outfielder Dasan Harris (Oklahoma) — started each game of the series in order for the team to see what they can do right away, according to Ridgefield head coach Chris Cota.

Early results were mixed. After the Raptors put together a no-hitter in a 10-0 win to open the series, the Pippins responded with two straight wins, including a 3-0 shutout win in the series finale June 13, which dropped Ridgefield’s record to 3-8 on the season, in last place of eight teams in the West Coast League South Division.

Takata leads the newcomers with a .222 batting average with one RBI and five runs scored, while Tejeda has tallied four RBI in three games. Engskov, Takata and Tejeda combined for five errors June 12 in the middle game of the series, a 10-4 Yakima Valley win.

“I like our new players,” Cota said. “Patrick Engskov, Taylor Takata, Richard Tejeda and Dasan (Harris), I think they’re all going to be just fine. I think they’ve showed us a little bit these first two games that are going to carry over to have a good summer.”

Cota believes it’s too early to tell what the Raptors have with their roster through 11 games of a 54-game WCL schedule. The team expects to bring in at least two additional position players and several more pitchers in the coming weeks, the coach said.

“We’re going to add a little bit to it, and once we figure out a mesh and how we’re going to do things, I think we’ll be fine,” Cota said. “We just can’t fall in too big of a hole.”

Trio of pitchers join rare company with no-hitter

Just how rare is a no-hitter in summer collegiate baseball?

Among three Ridgefield Raptors pitchers (Dylan Stewart, Curtis Hebert and Mac Elske) and catcher Justin Stransky, only one of them had experienced such a feat prior to Ridgefield’s 10-0 win against Yakima Valley on June 11, a collective effort from three pitchers at the top of their games who combined for the first no-hitter in team history.

The no-hitter was the 10th in WCL history and first since 2016, according to league records. It was also the first one to involve more than two pitchers.

“It felt like every single pitch that I called, it didn’t matter,” Stransky said, “because those guys were going to execute, they were going to make their pitch no matter what I called and they were just going to do their thing.”

The trio combined for 13 strikeouts and four walks in the performance. Stewart got the start and went five innings with seven strikeouts before giving the ball to Hebert, who quickly retired six batters as the middle reliever. Elske closed out the game by pitching the final two innings.

“Going out for the ninth, I could feel it from the dugout,” Elske said. “With each pitch, you could feel the energy kind of mounting. I didn’t want to be the one to let them down, so I just kept trying to make pitches and it ended up working out well.”

Each player has forged different paths during their collegiate careers. Elske, a native of Lake Oswego, Ore., played two years at Lower Columbia College in Longview before landing at Chaminade, an NCAA Division II school in Honolulu.

Stewart just completed his junior season at Pepperdine, where he’s used primarily as a relief pitcher. He’s been among Ridgefield’s most impactful arms over the last two seasons with a combined nine starts.

Hebert, a rising junior at University of Portland, made his first appearance on the mound of the season Tuesday, but he’s also seen time at third base, shortstop and left field in the early going this summer. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Hebert was also named the Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year in 2022.

“One thing with summer ball — sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t,” Hebert said after the no-hitter. “And I think moments like this help bring the guys together. With all the moving parts in summer ball, I think it brings the team together more.”

Stat spotlight

Though Ridgefield’s offense has started the season with a .172 batting average while averaging 9.2 strikeouts, Stransky is a bright spot in the team’s lineup. The second-year Raptor is hitting a team-high .333 and in the midst of a four-game hitting streak.

In their own words

“That’s part of baseball. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall your way. We put some good swings together and that’s what we took away. Keep swinging it and eventually it’s going to fall your way.” — Raptors catcher/outfielder Luke Iverson, on the team’s approach at the plate following a 3-0 loss to Yakima Valley on June 13.

The week ahead

After playing five straight games at home, the Raptors are hitting the road for their longest trip of the season thus far. Ridgefield will face the Port Angeles Lefties (3-9) for a three-game series beginning Tuesday at Civic Field.

Then, the Raptors will turn around from Thursday’s series finale to travel nearly 400 miles to Central Oregon, where they will face the Bend Elks in a three-game set.

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