WCL Baseball: Black Bears fall in non-championship opener of ‘spring training’ | Sports

RIDGEFIELD – The WCL season started again on Wednesday in Cowlitz County, and yet it didn’t, and in the end the Black Bears were probably happy to be stuck in that middle ground, giving up their first game 21 -7 at Ridgefield.

Officially, the game counted as a non-league contest and will not count towards WCL records, although it does count in the Raptors’ favor for the second annual Columbia River Cup, which the Black Bears will attempt to defend this season.

But with many players still on the move and in transit to the region, and most of them fresh out of grueling playoffs for their respective schools, freshman skipper Alan Embree likened it more to a game of pre-season than anything else.

“It was more of a spring training feel, to see what you got,” he said. “Now I know and I can kind of take control of the situation.”

What Embree had today ended up being a roster that included a bench player and an equally sparse bullpen, which was finalized for the day just hours before the first pitch. The Black Bears are expected to get a strong wave of reinforcements — both on the field and in the bullpen before opening the summer for real in Springfield on Friday.

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“I wasn’t going to let the boys overreact,” Embree said. “We had a group of guys who couldn’t pitch today, so we made do with what we had.”

With the wind blowing hard all evening, what Cowlitz did struggled to find a furrow up the hill. The Raptors scored in each of the first seven innings, including four in the second, three in the third and fifth, and an eighth-place finish in the sixth, against five Black Bear pitchers. Ridgefield recorded 24 outs in his eight offensive frames, while reaching base 28 times on 22 hits — including three homers — four walks and two hits.

“We have to stay ahead in the count and not be in the batting count, it’s pretty simple,” Embree said. “So when we get some guys there, let’s establish a first-pitch hitting mentality, in three pitches or less, we’ll be successful.”

Bailey Roberson had the better outing on the hill for Cowlitz, inheriting a mess in round six but coming out of it with no more damage, then throwing out seventh and eighth. The Hope International University pitcher gave up a run in the seventh, but his clean eighth was the only scoreless frame for Cowlitz all night, and despite being the longest of five Black Bears pitchers in terms of withdrawals, he pitched the second-fewest pitches.

Cowlitz quickly took the lead on a two-run homer from Calyn Halvorson at the top of the first and made it 3-1 in the second, but soon the Raptors took the lead at the bottom of that frame and never looked backward. When the Black Bears then cracked the scoreboard in the fifth with an Alec Arnone RBI single and a three-point bomb from Sean Mulcare, it only cut the lead to two points, and Ridgefield responded by scoring 12 unanswered in the last three frames.

“I was happy with the way we played defense and they swung the bats,” Embree said. “It’s an encouraging sign. If we activate the launcher side, it should be fun.

New familiar faces

Perhaps the best performance of the day in a green and orange uniform came from a local face new to those two colors. Nick Miller, the Kelso alum who just completed his first season in the LCC, started his Black Bears career with a solid day at home plate and in the hot corner.

Miller started his night in the second inning, after a triple from Kase Ogata with an RBI single the other way. From there he recorded a pair of doubles to finish 3 for 4.

“He was just solid. Good plate appearances, solid defense,” Embree said. “Anytime you can get a local to do something, it brings a little bit of excitement.”

It is one of a handful of local products on the Black Bears list, which is seeing a significant increase in it this summer.

On Wednesday, Miller was joined on the left side of the infield by fellow Red Devil Ethan Stacy. Matthew Schwarz is also set to return to the infield, and he’s bringing his brother Michael, who will work on the pitching team after finishing his first spring at Story Field. Also on that staff will be RA Long’s own — and current LCC — pitcher Jadon Williamson.

That makes five current Red Devils on the list, and there is a former one, with former RA Long and former Red Devil and DI starter Alex Brady also listed.

Notably, Toutle Lake’s Jackson Cox is no longer on the roster, who had to drop out of the team due to heightened draft interest.

Also representing the area on Wednesday, Rainier alum and LCC pitcher Brayden Marcum made his WCL debut for Ridgefield, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning.

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