Sam Barbee headshot

In light of Cowlitz being officially eliminated tonight — and from a separate ballpark, no less — I want to share a few thoughts.

A couple months ago, when they were mired in their struggles, I was a doubter. I knew Grady Tweit is a good baseball dude. I knew Cowlitz had players. I knew it was capable. But they weren’t winning.

I wanted them to prove it to me.

It took a while for everyone to settle down. Everyone wants to impress their new teammates, their new fans, their new coaches. It’s a recipe to press. People talk about this in the Big Leagues after trades. It’s hard to come in and produce right away. You’re often trying too hard.

There was a lot of that. The pitching wasn’t great. The defense was shaky. The offense was full of stops and starts — a run in an inning, but runners stranded at second and third after they got there with a one-out double. It was there. Or was it?

Then things changed. They won a few games. I remember a walk-off sac fly from Andres Sosa on his first game with the team, though he was here last year. The pitching improved. Guys settled down. Routine plays were just that. Runs started to come in bunches.

Do you remember The Comeback (silly name I know. If you have something better I’ll roll with it)? Port Angeles leading 7-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, and Cowlitz scores seven and somehow wins 8-7? Sosa went ya-ya with two other hits. Luke Price doubled and drove in two. A game that was over, done with, suddenly changed, which changed everything.

That was the spark.

Suddenly you saw it. Aggressive base running. Solid defense. Pitching turned a corner.

From there, they played their way right into the hunt. They played an important, stakes-laden series with Corvallis at home. They kept pace afterwards, only being eliminated when a good Bellingham team got beat by a better Corvallis team. It sucks, yeah, but the distance traveled was significant.

Early in the year, Tweit told me it’s about the process, not the results. He kept saying to trust the process, to borrow from the 76ers. It seemed a rationalization at the time. I never called him on it. I knew he believed it. I knew he wasn’t just talking to talk.

And he was right. I was wrong. It was amazing to see the distance traveled. It was amazing to see Cowlitz go from walkabout to tough out, even as the roster was raided by various things.

Cowlitz still has five games left. Five games to play for pride. Five games to send guys into fall ball with confidence. Five games to set a tone for next year, as far away as it is. They won’t care they got eliminated. Well, they will. That’s probably true.

But they’ll do their damnedest to win those games. And that’s the thing about this group. It’s not about the results. It’s about the process. Tweit was right.

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