RIDGEFIELD — After a huge fifth inning saw the W.F. West baseball team take its first lead in the 2A District 4 semifinals against Columbia River Wednesday in Ridgefield, the Rapids quickly seized momentum back from the Bearcats, and rode it all the way to a 9-4 victory.
Braden Jones gave the Bearcats their first lead in the fifth after a blooper was ruled just fair down the left field line, scoring two runs, and the very next at-bat, Deacon Meller hit for a single to score two more to help the Bearcats take a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, just nine outs away from a second consecutive trip to the district finals.
But from there, things derailed for W.F. West. The Rapids responded with a run in the bottom of the inning, from two Bearcat errors in the infield, and after Jones was pulled off the mound — pitching 4 ⅔ innings with three hits, two runs, both unearned, and four strikeouts — the Bearcats couldn’t stop the bleeding.
The Rapids put seven runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth, and the Bearcats couldn’t find their bats in the loss.
It means W.F. West will take on Mark Morris in a loser-out, winner-to-regionals contest on Saturday at Ridgefield with its season on the line and backs against the wall.
“You have to tip your hat to them, they really hit the ball,” Bearcats coach Bryan Bullock said. “That last inning, they really sprayed the ball around and they hadn’t done that all game. Can’t say enough about the effort of Braden Jones to start the game to keep us in it. He did a really good job. We could have made a couple more plays to keep that pitch count down, and we just couldn’t stop the bleeding with him out of there.”
The Bearcats didn’t exactly help themselves out at the plate, either. Other than a four-run fifth, W.F. West was held off the scoreboard, and despite putting some decent innings together with baserunners, couldn’t get timely hits to back up Jones’ strong day on the mound.
Rapids pitcher Casey Struckmeier had six strikeouts through three innings, and finished with 10 in six innings of work.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well recently, but we just haven’t been consistent, like today,” Bullock said. “There were innings here and there where we put pressure on them and got guys on base, but then there were a couple innings where we went down 1-2-3 and didn’t make them work at all. We’re going to have to show up offensively on Saturday to put some runs on the board and help out our pitchers.”
The loss puts the Bearcats in a do-or-die possession, against a squad they beat earlier this season during non-league play in the Monarchs. Mark Morris is fresh off a nail-biting one-run victory over Hockinson in a losers bracket matchup Wednesday.
“They’re a really solid team, we know they’re really solid,” Bullock said. “It’s going to be a tough one on Saturday. These guys want to get in the state tournament, so it’s going to be a battle.
“That’s a part of sports, sometimes you have to deal with failure, and how you respond to it is going to make you a better person. Hopefully it will make us a better team on Saturday and we can find ways to win.”