The Cowlitz Black Bears needed this one. Heading into a six-game road trip that skipper Grady Tweit dubbed one of “the toughest of the year,” Cowlitz ached for a series win on the home turf at David Story Field.
But that’s not how things were shaping up through five and half innings on Sunday. Kelowna led 8-1 and the Bears’ bats — excluding University of Portland’s Ryan Kim — were quiet.
Baseball is a funny game, though, and when Cowlitz (4-5) finally got going, it really took off. The Bears scored five runs in the eighth inning as University of Washington’s Blake Burton ripped a two-RBI go-ahead single to center field. Marty Maves held on for the save to give the Black Bears a 9-8 win and their first series win of the year.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to be, and you can take advantage of it,” Tweit said. “Hopefully they’re learning that because that’s what baseball is about.”
Kim again had a stellar outing. The Bears’ leading hitter last year has picked up where he left off, as he’s batting .391 through six games. He hit his first two extra-base hits of the season on Sunday. He smashed a first-inning double before coming around to score on Austin Bell’s single to right field. Then peppered a liner off the left-field wall for a triple in the third inning.
He finished 3 of 5, and had a diving catch in right field to start the ninth inning.
“I was like ‘Should I dive or not?’” Kim said of the catch. “But I had to do it, and I kind of got lucky.”
After Kim and Bell, who has now driven in multiple runs in his first three games with the Black Bears, got Cowlitz started, the rain silenced the Bears.
A downpour delayed the game for five minutes, but more importantly chased Napavine graduate Wyatt Stanley after three innings. Stanley struggled when the rain was at its hardest in the top of the second inning, allowing three runs and three doubles. Lower Columbia’s Ryan Kaser didn’t fare better, allowing five runs in three innings.
It wasn’t until University of Portland’s Christian Peters came on that the Cowlitz arms settled in. Peters went two innings of no-hit ball on his second straight night of work to keep the Bears in the game.
“That was huge by Christian,” Tweit said. “Two nights in a row, he has come in and shut them down. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do. We’ve got full confidence in him.”
Then it was Cowlitz’s turn to make some noise. Leadoff singles by Dallas Baptist University players Andres Sosa and Bell led to a score in the sixth inning. Vancouver Island’s Liam Ballance doubled off the left-field wall to open the seventh inning before a pair of grounders ended with two runs plated for Cowlitz, which cut the deficit to 8-4.
Three Kelowna (2-4) pitching changes, three walks and a hit by pitch made for a big eighth inning by the Black Bears. They plated five runs on just two hits — a single by Jonathan Hodo and the game-winner by Burton.
“We didn’t give up,” Kim said. “We knew we had a chance, and then obviously guys worked the count and did well.”
Cowlitz finished with 10 hits and only one error. The Bears take on Port Angeles on Monday to start a three-game road series before stopping back home for a nonleaguer against the Northwest Honkers on Thursday, and then heading to Corvallis for another three-game road series.
“It’s one of the tougher road trips of the season,” Tweit said. “There’s no time to sleep. It’s time to stay on the throttle right now.”