Even the weather seems to be pushing the Black Bears toward the offseason.
There were more sweatshirts and jackets than shorts and T-shirts in the Story Field stands on Friday. There was a chill in the air more appropriate for football season and the heavy clouds burst with an unseasonable rain shower moments after Medford held off Cowlitz 4-3, a loss that drops the Bears seven games out of the last playoff spot with eight games remaining.
Yet the Bears refuse to get blown into elimination without a fight.
They had plenty of excuses to go down quietly against Medford. Cowlitz nearly doubled up Medford in hits, but seemingly every break fell toward the Rogues, pop-flies hopping out of gloves, line drives settling just inside the line. The Rogues are still very much in the postseason hunt, and they exploited every fortuitous bounce to take a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
The Battlin’ Bears kept on swinging anyway.
Devon Gradford led off with a sharp single down the line, and Jonathan Reese reached on an infield hit. With two on and two out, Danny Recio — playing his last game with the team before heading back to UC San Diego — laced a single into the gap to pull Cowlitz within one.
Paul Martinez struck out to end the game, stranding the tying run 90 feet away, but the point had been made.
“We’re disappointed with where we are. We thought we’d be higher up in the league,” Bears designated hitter Ryan Littlefield said. “But we still care, and I think it really shows.”
That’s certainly evident with Littlefield himself. He continued his recent hot streak by going 3 for 4 with a run and just missed the chance to play the hero, finishing the game in the on-deck circle.
“The way the summer has gone, with some of the guys we had, (Littlefield) wasn’t getting all that much playing time,” Bears coach Tim Matz said. “He’s really made the most of his opportunities. He’s done a terrific job. ... We all knew that he was capable.”
The Mark Morris graduate likely saw this summer going a bit differently. His at-bats were limited, and he had looked uncomfortable against the tougher pitching. But Littlefield has been given more of a chance in recent weeks, and he’s taken it. He has dragged his average above .250 and finally regained some of that old swagger.
Just like the Bears themselves, sitting at four games under .500 (21-25) and seemingly with little to play for, still taking cuts.
“After all we’ve been through, with injuries and guys leaving the team and all that stuff, to see us fight like that all the way to the last pitch is pretty exciting,” Matz said.