The first half was dark and full of struggles, but it ended a little brighter.
A forgettable first half concluded with three days to be remembered. Cowlitz erased a 7-1 deficit on Friday, played its best game of the summer on Saturday, then again came from behind for a 6-3 win on Sunday with a two-run Austin Bell triple in the seventh to sweep aside the Port Angeles Lefties and go into the second half with considerable momentum.
“This is by far the best baseball that we’ve played and it’s something that’s going to carry over into the second half,” Bell said. “First half is over with, it’s done. And there’s no better way to start the second half than with a three-game sweep.
“I think the main this is confidence. It was three different wins. A comeback, kind of a beating and today, another little bit of a comeback. I thin kit’s gonna give us confidence. A, our pitches did great. Huge improvement. And hitting, we never gave up, and drove the ball. And (we) played good defense. I think it’s gonna bring a lot of wins if we continue to do that.”
Bell has been Cowlitz’s best and most consistent hitter of the first half.
He turned in a .358 average with four doubles, a triple, a homer and 17 RBI. His .994 OPS (on-base plus slugging) is nuts and he leads the team in slugging (.510) and on-base (.484), as evidenced by his monumental OPS.
He was just the guy manager Grady Tweit wanted to see up with a chance to take control of the ballgame with the sweep in the balance.
“That’s a veteran guy right there that understands the zone, understands what they’re trying to do and understands what’s given to him, what’s the opportunity and what he’s trying to do,” Tweit said. “He’s taken on a little bit a leadership role with that with him and (Andres) Sosa and (Ryan) Kim and (Luke) Price and those guys to be able to be talking to the guys. That’s what’s helping us.”
Cowlitz showed life and resilience all weekend, erasing deficits and adding to leads.
Sunday was no different.
After Ronnie Rust put Port Angeles up 3-1 with a wall-scraper of a homer in the sixth, Cowlitz rallied for four runs in the next two innings to retake control.
Sosa singled to start the frame then saw a ball down and slid safely into second. He appeared to get to third, but a ball hit off home plate umpire Kyle Kutz’s hand and called it a foul ball, to Cowltiz’s displeasure, and sent Sosa back to second.
Luke Price kept the inning going, getting a run back with a line drive to left-center that scored Sosa easily, who was running on contact with two outs. Fugitt then got bailed out by a nice pick from Matt Christian at first to end the sixth.
Then the timely hitting continued in the seventh.
Port Angeles went to Carter Loewen after Nathan Bonck was solid for 6.0 innings, and Cowlitz got to the reliever.
Zack Smith walked to start, then he stole second and got to third after stealing second and advancing on the poor throw to second. Seth Beckstead drove him in with a line drive to right that got past Nick Diponzio, allowing Beckstead to scamper to third.
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James Arakawa walked, setting up Austin Bell to take the lead. He did just that, tripling to deep right center that Ethan Groff almost got to but came up short after his dive.
Beckstead scored easily and Arakawa was flying right behind him, putting Cowlitz up 5-3. He later scored on Sosa’s sac fly to Rust in left, which was also the first out of the inning, doubling up Cowlitz’s lead at 6-3.
Jorge Arellano was good for his first four full innings, allowing just two hits with five Ks and no walks. He was as close to dominant as you can be. He threw just 57 pitches, 38 of which were strikes.
“Sets the tempo for us right there,” Tweit said. “Sets the tempo for the offense, defense, everything. Another great job by Jorge there to establish the zone and keep his pitch count down and give us four innings like he promised us he would.”
He yielded to Kyle Rich in the fifth, who continued the dominance until the sixth, when things went sideways for him.
Two walks and as many wild pitches put runners on the corners with two outs, one run already saved by Andres Sosa throwing out Justin Fugitt (one of the walks) on a chopper to third with Fugitt running on the contact play.
It looked like Rich might tip-toe out of the jam, maintaining Cowlitz’s rather narrow 1-0 lead. But it wasn’t to be.
Rust took an 0-2 pitch deep to right, thinking it wasn’t out and running hard all the way to third before finally realizing he could jog it in. Nick Berry doubled afterwards, ending Rich’s day, and Justin Dolezal finally ended the inning with a strikeout. But the damage was done.
Cowlitz took an early 1-0 lead in the third, started by a Zack Smith walk.
Smith stole second with Seth Beckstead at the plate, then later moved to third on a wild pitch that got past starting Port Angeles catcher Matt Boissoneault.
Cowlitz shortstop then James Arakawa lined one into center, letting Smith jog home for Cowlitz’s first run and a lead.
Dolezal did well to keep it there in the seventh.
Fugitt tripled into the right field corner with one out, threatening to double the Lefties lead. But, after a visit, Dolezal got a couple pop outs to Smith at second, stranding Fugitt harmlessly at third after the third extra base hit by Port Angeles.
That turned out to be a big sequence for Cowlitz, which scored four runs in the bottom half to take control.
“Good after bad is what I always yell at the guys,” Tweit said. “Good after bad.”
Cowlitz has a day off Monday before hosting the Northwest Honkers on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. before hosting the Kelowna Falcons for two the next two days.