The Black Bears gave the home fans at Story Field plenty to cheer about in their season opener Thursday night against the visiting Portland ports. Austin Baker (Arkansas St.) stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with Chris Iriart (Orange Coast College) on first with the Black Bears trailing 9-8. The left hander drove a ball to the second deck of signage in left center field for a walk-off victory.
Iriart showcased his power swing early on with a mammoth three run shot to give the Black Bears a 3-0 lead. Cowlitz added a run in the fourth before Portland responded in a big way, scoring four runs in the fifth inning and adding two more in their half of the sixth.
Cowlitz was far from done. Trailing by three runs entering the seventh inning, a Seaver Whalen (Lower Columbia College) single followed by a Kyle Hunt (Nevada) double put a pair of runners in scoring position for Daniel Orr (Corban). Orr cleared the bases with a triple, and later came home to tie the game at seven.
Small ball was on the agenda in the eighth inning. Casey Worden (Saddleback) led off with a walk and was quickly sacrificed to second, representing the go-ahead run. A Clay Mott (George Fox) single put runners on the corners with one out. A safety squeeze by Whalen plated Worden with the go ahead run, putting the Black Bears three outs away from victory.
The Ports refused to go down without a fight, however, and two runs in the top of the ninth reversed the situation.
After Iriart walked and was sacrificed to second by Brian Poupore (Kansas), Baker's towering home run into the darkening sky sealed the deal to give the Black Bears the hard fought victory. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates as the crowd went wild as they had witnessed the first of many victories to come at Story Field this Summer.
In a game that saw Coach Matz getting the majority of his early season roster into the ballgame, 10 different Bears collected at least one hit, including Baker, Orr and Kyle Hunt (Nevada) with two each.
Be sure to join the fans in attendance Friday night at Story Field as the Black Bears begin a three game series against the Medford Rogues. The first 300 fans through the gate will receive a 2014 Black Bears rally towel presented by the Columbia River Reader. Billy Sahlinger (U of Portland), a returning player from the 2013 squad, will take the hill for Cowlitz, opposite Nathan Kuchta and the Rogues. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05, with a spectacular post game fireworks extravaganza brought to you by Kapstone Paper and Packaging.