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Corvallis downs Raptors, earns 15th straight postseason berth

Thursday, July 7, Corvallis, Ore.  –  The Knights came up huge with their backs to the wall in Game 3 of their pivotal series with the Ridgefield Raptors.

Needing one more win to clinch the South Division’s first-half title, the resulting automatic postseason berth and the top seed in the opening round of the playoffs, the Knights topped Ridgefield 4-1 in a winner-take-all showdown, delighting a Goss Stadium crowd of 1,700. The Raptors would have earned the title via tie-breaker had they prevailed.

Ridgefield (16-10) had defeated Corvallis on Tuesday and Wednesday, denying the Knights quest to clinch by a combined 14-1 tally. On this night, however, pitchers Joey Gartrell (Portland) and Cam Day (Utah) combined to quiet the Raptors on seven hits. They’d banged out 29 hits the previous two days.

And third baseman Temo Becerra (pictured, above) roused the Knights drowsy bats with a solo homer and a key two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth. The rising Stanford sophomore’s two-bagger gave the Knights (18-9 overall, 18-8 WCL) enough breathing room to survive a tense top of the ninth.

Ridgefield brought the tying run to the plate three times after the first two batters reached safely in the ninth. Day got the first out on a force play at second, then fanned the next two hitters to complete a stellar three-inning save.

Corvallis has now qualified for the playoffs in 15 consecutive seasons since the divisional postseason format was introduced in 2007. They will open the home portion of the best-of-3 opening round with Game 2 of the South Division series on Aug. 10 after playing Game 1 on the road on Aug. 9. This season’s post-season will feature four first-round series with the North and South first-half and second-half champions holding home field advantage versus two wild cards from their respective divisions. Series winners will advance to single-game semi-finals match-ups.

The Knights had not led in the series until Becerra lead off the third inning by driving his second homer of the summer over the left-field fence.  The Raptors tied the game in the fifth, but Kiko Romero (Arizona in 2023) responded with a two-out RBI single to send the Knights back ahead 2-1 in the bottom half.

Two singles sandwiched around a walk loaded the bases for the Knights with no outs in the eighth. The next two batters were retired, but Becerra then drove a ringing double into the right-center gap to chase home two valuable insurance runs.

Gartrell allowed one run and five hits in six innings. He struck out two, did not have a walk and threw 49 strikes in 72 pitches.

Day retired the first six Raptors he faced in order, then escaped the jam in the ninth. He threw four pitches over 96 MPH and had 32 strikes in 53 total pitches.

Zander Darby (UCSB) was 3-for-4 and Jonah Advincula (Redlands), Becerra and Romero had two hits each. Corvallis stole six bases.

The Knights begin a nine-game road trip at Bend this weekend, starting with Friday’s 6:35 pm series opener. They travel to Edmonton on July 12-14 for their first-ever games against the Riverhawks, then visit Wenatchee on July 15-17.

Their next home series following the road trip is July 19-21 against Cowlitz.

Box score

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