The Cowlitz Black Bears went softly into that good night Tuesday, having a rough evening in every phase of the game in an 8-2 loss to the Portland Pickles.
The early issue was an old recurring one, as the Black Bears struggled to string enough offense together to put runs on the scoreboard. Down 4-0 in the bottom of the third, Cowlitz put runners on first and second with one out, but Brock Bozett grounded into an easy double play to end the frame. The next inning, the Black Bears set the table again, but an unproductive flyout and a strikeout once again sent them packing empty-handed.
In the fifth they took it even further, loading the bases with one out, before back-to-back outs in foul territory kept them on bagels in the scoring column.
“It’s just the funk continuing from last game,” Cowlitz skipper Brian Burres said. “It’s not like we’re not trying to do it, we’re just not getting it done. The approach isn’t bad. We’re trying to do what we need to do, it’s just not working.”
The Black Bears finally cashed in on an opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when Jacob Burley hit a ground-rule double, Rikuu Nishida lined a single to put runners on the corners, Portland committed a throwing error on a Bozett grounder to let a run come home, and Jacob Stinson doubled Cowlitz’s total with an RBI single.
But all the short rally did was cut the Portland lead to 7-2. And immediately after Stinson got Cowlitz its first run-scoring hit in over 15 innings, the Black Bears’ offense went back to square one, with Kase Ogata grounding into an inning-ending double play and their next six batters going down in order to finish the game.
Portland got all the scoring it would need in the top of the third off of LCC’s Kyle Sandstrom, though the defense around him also played a part. After back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, Gabe Skoro dropped a sacrifice bunt right in front of Burley, who rushed to bare-hand the ball to have a chance at the lead runner, but ended up dropping it entirely. Burley recovered but rushed his throw to first, sending it into right field to plate a run and put runners on the corners.
Sensing a chance, Portland put the wheels in motion and had Skoro take off from first. Burley’s throw went all the way down and the Black Bears caught Skoro in a rundown, but the Pickles got a run out of it on the front side to make it 2-0.
Two batters later, with a runner on and two outs, Leo Mosby launched an opposite-field home run to double the lead the 4-0.
Sandstrom got the final out in the third, but that ended up being it for him. He allowed the four runs — though just one was earned — on five hits and a pair of walks, and struck out four.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he had been, it looked like, command-wise,” Burres said. “Got into deeper counts in some of those at-bats. They definitely got to him in the (third). We made some miscues; those two things usually go hand-in-hand in a crooked number.”
Micky Thompson came in for his first relief appearance with the Black Bears and had much the same results, putting up two scoreless frames before getting tagged with a three-run sixth to end his night.
Portland added its last run of the night immediately on the heels of Cowlitz’s rally, taking back momentum on a double when three Black Bears lost the ball in the twilight and bringing the run home on a wild pitch and a fielding error.
That helped put any comeback chance to bed, as the inklings of momentum in the Black Bears’ dugout that had started to form in the bottom of the seventh went away.
“It was definitely a lot flatter, on our side especially,” Burres said. “I don’t know what to chalk it up to, but it was, and we’re going to have to remedy that tomorrow.”
The Black Bears were set to get another shot at the Pickles on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m.