The Cowlitz Black Bears' team which came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning didn't resemble the same squad which had hit in the previous eight frames of Wednesday's West Coast League matchup against the Kitsap BlueJackets.
The ninth-inning Black Bears showed poise and patience at the plate, which they parlayed into two runs on two hits and three walks. But they also ended the game with a bases-loaded strikeout by Cowlitz's reigning league Player of the Week, Kyle Garlick, capping a 6-4 setback.
"It was too little too late," Cowlitz coach Bryson LeBlanc said of the ninth-inning rally. "We didn't have those at-bats throughout the game like we did in the ninth. Maybe if we had those at-bats throughout the game we might've done a little better."
The loss evened the Black Bears' record at 19-19, five games behind West Division leader Corvallis (24-14) and four behind second place Bend (23-15).
Spencer O'Neil led off the ninth with an infield groundout off of reliever Matt Cartwright, and Mike Bush followed with a base hit to left field. Beau Didier grounded into a fielder's choice which erased Bush, Bailey Graham walked and Mitchell Walding slapped a single to right field which plated Didier. Kevin Schwartz walked to load the bases, and Greg Velazquez walked to score Graham.
The situation got heated when Kitsap manager Matt Acker came to home plate and argued ball and strike calls. Acker's ire got him ejected, and he showed his displeasure by throwing a pair of folding chairs onto the field before leaving the stadium.
When order was restored, Cartwright ended the game with a five-pitch strikeout of Garlick.
The Black Bears had four of their six hits - all doubles - in the initial six innings, but only one of those baserunners would score. In all, Cowlitz stranded seven baserunners, including six in scoring position. Prior to the ninth inning, the home team had milked only two free passes.
Kitsap converted two Cowlitz errors and a double into a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and parlayed three singles, a triple and a walk into a pair of runs and a 4-0 advantage in the third.
"The two errors were costly," LeBlanc said. "Errors and walks will kill you."
Cowlitz scored its first run in the fourth when Bush stroked a two-out double to right field and crossed the plate when Didier hit a line drive which went between the shortstop's legs into left-center field. In the sixth, Braxton Miller coaxed a one-out walk, moved to third on a two-bagger from O'Neil and was plated on a groundout by Bush.
Kevin Bosson allowed nine hits, struck out four batters, walked three and hit one while working into the seventh inning. Mac Acker (no relation to the Kitsap coach) allowed one hit and whiffed four in 2 2/3 innings of relief in his Black Bears' mound debut.
"We pitched well enough to keep us in the game," LeBlanc said. "They (the BlueJackets) came out really aggressive and were first-pitch swinging. They played a good game and held on for the win."
O'Neil had a pair of doubles, and Bush finished with two hits including a double.
The Black Bears host Kitsap for the final game of the series Thursday night. It's also Thirsty Thursday with $2 beer, Ladies Night with all women receiving $5 general admission tickets, Hawaiian Shirt Night where everyone wearing one receives a $2 ticket discount, and Longview Schools Spirit Night.