These Spudders are no longer pushovers. Together, they won their high school’s first district baseball championship in more than a decade Friday.
“This is a team that has grit,” said senior catcher Brock Harrison. “When coach (Nick) Allen came to the program six years ago, the thing about Ridgefield athletes was that we were soft. In past years, we haven’t done what we could. This year, we wanted to change all that.
“I think we have, but we still have a long ways to go,” he added. “We have the opportunity to play another two weeks of baseball. Just keep pushing from here on out.”
The Spudders hung on to defeat a determined Columbia River squad 4-2 in the 2A district title game at Propstra Park. Cody and Jimmy Wallace drove in runs for Ridgefield with two outs in the fourth and fifth innings. The Spudders added two more runs on balks by the opposing pitcher.
Columbia River scored twice in the sixth and then loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. Ridgefield pitcher Josh Mansur got two quick strikes on the pinch hitter. The Chieftain hit two foul balls that Harrison couldn’t secure behind the plate. Mansur’s next pitch went wild but Harrison recovered the ball to keep the runner at third.
“There was no panic. I knew Josh could handle him,” Harrison said. “I was confident in any pitch he was going to throw. Fastball, curveball, change up.”
After taking a deep breath, Mansur threw a wicked curve and the batter swung over the top of the ball. Strike three. Game over.
“He executed, got it in there and we were dog piling,” Harrison said. “It was a really good feeling. This whole thing has been a good feeling. We’ve battled through a lot and we’re ready to keep going.”
Mansur, Jimmy Wallace and Spencer Andersen pitched a lot of quality innings for Ridgefield throughout the district tournament. As senior Kellen Bringhurst took the ball to the mound to start the game Friday, he wanted to follow suit.
“I wanted to throw a lot of strikes and let my defense help me out,” Bringhurst said. “I think I did that pretty well.”
Andersen, Bringhurst, Harrison and Camden Ryder have been playing baseball together since they were in Little League.
“It’s been our goal for a long time to win districts and have a great state run,” Bringhurst said. “Now that we’ve won districts, our next goal is to go hit state hard and try to win state.”
Ridgefield (17-6) advances to the regional round of the state tournament May 18 at Wheeler Field in Centralia. If the Spudders win both games May 18, they advance to the Final Four May 24 and 25 in Yakima.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re practicing or playing a game; these guys are making strides every single day,” said head coach Nick Allen. “The way they work hard in the offseason, the way they play the game hard, the way they stay mentally tough, the way they help each other and support each other as teammates … all of those stepping stones are things we have been working on the last six years.”
Whatever happens next weekend, these Spudders have changed the culture at their school.
“In the gym, underneath baseball, it’s going to say 2019 forever in the district championship section,” Allen said. “I don’t even think these guys realize it yet, but it’s such a big deal.”
Let Bringhurst play though
While caught up in the excitement of winning his first high school district baseball championship, Kellen Bringhurst couldn’t help but smile when asked if this extended spring might affect his golf schedule. He already had an answer.
“I’m not going to miss any golf for baseball and I won’t have to miss any baseball for golf,” he said.
Back in October, Bringhurst helped the Ridgefield boys golf team win the district title. He is one of the six Spudders with an opportunity to compete at the state tournament May 21 and 22 on the Liberty Lake course in Spokane.
If Bringhurst can help the Ridgefield baseball team get to the Final Four May 24 and 25 in Yakima, it’s going to be one fun week.
“Winning districts in golf and baseball is the coolest experience ever. I’ve been able to do it with two different teams. Great group of guys in each sport,” Bringhurst said. “I’m really happy and excited and thankful for the opportunity to play with all of them. It’s been a good run. It’s not over yet, though.”