All season, even through its struggles, the Cowlitz Black Bears have talked about grinding, about looking to the next day, about finding a way to turn things around.
They might’ve found that spark Friday night after an 8-7 comeback win over the Port Angeles Lefties in a game the Black Bears trailed 7-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, inducing a rousing cheer from the postgame meeting in shallow right field.
“We were just truly excited that somehow we pulled a seven-run inning when we had to,” Luke Price, who had the game-winning two-RBI single, said.
That eighth largely was helped by Lefties reliever Jordan Banholzer, who walked three in just 1/3 inning while allowing five runs, all earned.
But it came with some timely hitting, as well.
The Black Bears picked up a run in the eighth when, after a Price walk and a pinch-hit single from Josh Marchese, James Arakawa rolled one to third and beat it out for an RBI infield single. Banholzer walked two consecutive, the second coming to Brandon Lees that scored Marchese with the bases loaded.
Port Angeles went to Zach Tresemer, who gave up a sharp single to Austin Bell on a ball that ate up Rosenberg at short, but it was ruled a hit. Sosa then grounded one to third, where Evan Hurn stopped with a dive and threw to fellow sub Nick Berry at second. Bell was safe there and Pickhardt scored after walking.
Ryan Kim then bounced one into the hole at second, and Berry got there and threw Kim out with a spin. It brought Cowlitz within one run with Price coming to the plate.
He got one off the end of his bat and dropped it right on the left field line. Bell and Andres Sosa, who homered earlier for Cowlitz, both scored and Cowlitz took an 8-7 lead after scoring seven runs and erasing a 7-1 deficit.
“Heck of a job by the offense,” Cowlitz manager Grady Tweit said. “Sosa had some great ABs today personally. Bell’s AB in the eighth with Sosa and those guys. That was huge. Everybody was locked in in the eighth there. It was nice to see.”
Earlier, Lefties starter Tyler Tan was effective until Sosa’s two-out solo shot, largely holding the Black Bears to weak contact. Sosa was one of two Black bears to make solid contact on the first time through, but it was a grounder right at third baseman Justin Fugitt.
Cowlitz hasn’t hit many homers this season — just five — and Sosa has two of them. The Dallas Baptist slugger, who hit eight homers in 47 games for the Patriots, which reached the postseason.
“It was nice to set the tone and show the guys what happens when you’re still on time and you load up properly and get on time to the baseball,” Tweit said. “Good things happen and we were able to build off that.”
Black Bears starter Justin Biesterfeld tip-toed out of a first-inning jam, yielding just a single run in front of some solid defense.
After a lead off walk and a Fugitt single moved Gavin Rork over to third, Biesterfeld threw one past catcher Heath Pickhardt and Rork came across, but Biesterfeld kept it there.
He walked Matt Christian, but with first base open that wasn’t the worst thing. He then got C.J. Schauwecker to bounce a high chopper to Sosa right at the bag at third. He touched up then went the short way to Sam Ireland at second, getting the sluggish Christian and a clever double play. Another chopper got Biesterfeld out of the inning.
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Cowlitz stranded a pair of runners in the second, getting a one-out walk from Braden DeBenedictis and Zack Smith followed by getting plunked.
Port Angeles took a visit to talk to the now suddenly struggling Tyler Tan, but he got a couple right side popups; Schauwecker squeezed James Arakawa’s up against the screen outside of first and Charlie Nasuti tracked down a Pickhardt fly ball to right.
Biesterfeld somewhat settled down after that. He pitched around a walk in the second, then went quickly through the third, getting his first K of the night and a swell defensive play from James Arakawa, who cutoff a grounder up the middle with a dive and a quick throw to first.
But then he ran into trouble in the fourth.
He plunked Alex Garcia then walked Ronnie Rust. Rust was the fourth walk for Biesterfeld and the sixth man he put on for free (four walks, two HBP) and he paid for it.
Garcia and Rust running on the pitch to Carlie Nasuti, the Lefties right fielder just stuck his bat out and lobbed one down the right field line. Garcia and Rust can both run, and both scored easily. Then Damiano Palmegiani doubled firmly into right center, bringing around Nasuti.
It ended Biesterfeld’s day.
Arakawa saved a run for reliever Ellis Stevens later in the inning. After Palmegiani stole third with ease, Cowlitz brought in its infield. It was a good decision because Rosenberg hit a ball right at the Black Bears shortstop, who accurately threw to Pickhardt at the plate to get Palmegiani, who was running on the play.
But Port Angeles wouldn’t be held down there.
Rosenberg stole third after a Rork walk, then Matt Christian hammered one down into the left field corner, easily bringing in the pair. In all, it was a five-run inning for Port Angeles that blew it open.
Port Angeles picked up another run in the fifth, getting three straight hits from Nasuti, Palmegiani and Rosenberg, all of which came with two outs.
Those three make up the bottom third of Port Angeles’ roster, and they were the main source of the Lefties’ offense. They combined to go 6-11 with four RBI and three runs.
Dale Takalo, of nearby Knappa, Oregon, took the ball for the ninth and went cleanly, getting a couple fly outs and a ground out to earn the comeback win, which could be a streak-starter.
“That’s what we needed,” Tweit said. “We needed that. For Takalo to come in there at the end right there just show you what happens when you throw strikes: you give yourself a chance.”
Cowlitz and Port Angeles meet again for game two of the series on Saturday at 6:35 p.m.