PORT ANGELES — Ending the season as playoff-spot spoilers, Port Angeles knocked off Portland 7-2 in the season finale Thursday night at Civic Field.
The Lefties win put the lid on the Pickles season and kept them out of the West Coast League South Division playoffs. Portland (26-22) tied with Ridgefield and Bend in the standings, but Ridgefield advanced to play Corvallis due to a better head-to-head record among the three tied teams.
In the North Division, first-half winner Yakima Valley will take on second-half champ Bellingham. The playoff series started late Saturday.
Thursday’s finale saw Port Angeles put across three in the fourth to take the lead for good at 4-1. Jack Holman doubled home Bryce Matthews and came home on a Nathan Chong single. Chong then was brought in by Port Angeles native Ethan Flodstrom’s RBI single.
Flodstrom went out with a flourish, going 3 for 4 at the plate with a double and a run scored to raise his season average to .245.
Flodstrom came home on Nick Oakley’s seventh-inning double and the Lefties tacked on two more runs on a fielder’s choice scoring Luke Saunders and Bryce Matthews’ infield single, scoring Javy Espinoza.Port Angeles pitchers combined on a four-hit performance, with starter Steven Brooks going five innings, scattering three hits and one walk while striking out five.
Luke Saunders got the Lefties out of an eighth-inning jam and closed out the contest.
Season in review
Lefties co-owner Matt Acker stepped back into the dugout as manager for the first time since coaching the WCL’s Kitsap Blue Jackets before their move to Port Angeles.
“There was stuff to worry about outside the fence that was difficult but I had talented people that were stepping up and helping,” Acker said of the day-to-day operation of the team. “I enjoyed the players and the coaches and I was the right person for what we want to do going forward which is have young players and have them return as they go through college,” Acker said.
Port Angeles received some quality starts from multiple pitchers, but Acker said this is where his squad struggled the most this summer.
“Obviously a glaring weakness on our team is we didn’t have consistent starting pitching all season,” Acker said. “We really struggled in getting our starting pitchers beyond the fifth, sixth or seventh inning and they are on pitch limits, so they’d have to come out.
“We knew the team was going to be young and our chance to win was our older starting pitching, so it became about development and building up these young guys who will come back for two or three more years. We will have a chance to see a Steven Brooks three years down the line who has improved by playing D-1 baseball and is tied to the Port Angeles community after spending summers up here.”
Acker immediately brought up Lefties shortstop and leadoff hitter Nick Oakley as the team’s heart and soul.Oakley had a team-high .290 batting average, was second on the squad with five homers and 21 RBIs.
Oakley .290 highest on team, 5 hrs second, 21 rbi second
“He’s a leader, a good player and overall a really great kid,” Acker said. “When the team needed to be fired up or calmed down, it was Oakley.”
Reliever Zach Thomas had a number of strong outings for the Lefties out of the bullpen.
“Zach Thomas was by far the most effective pitcher for us this summer,” Acker said. “We had some other great outings from other guys, but when it comes down to consistency it was Zach, no question.”
Attendance was down overall from pre-pandemic seasons, but the Lefties finished in the upper half of attendance in the 10-team league.
“It’s different because were talking about just 10 teams and no Victoria [the year-in, year-out attendance champions],” Acker said. We came on strong towards the end and we had some huge crowds at the end of July and in our final homestand. “We were fourth overall in league attendance heading into the final game and we had a big crowd, so maybe we finish third.”
Acker is hopeful for the 2022 WCL season, which should see the debut of four expansion teams: the Nanaimo Night Owls, Kamloops NorthPaws, Edmonton River Hawks and Springfield Drifters.
“We’ll grow to 16 teams in the league, all in great markets with excellent ownership groups and the more teams the better as it will be less travel,” Acker said. “I like the four-division setup and I like the expanded playoffs. It’s an advantage for us to have played this year, the Canadian teams haven’t fielded a team for two years so it will be tougher for them to find returning players and build a roster.”
Port Angeles 7, Portland 2,
PDX 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 — 2 4 2
PA 0 1 0 3 0 0 3 0 x — 7 12 0
WP: Brooks. LP: Hill.
PDX — Hill 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, 2 K; Larsen 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K; Tomlinson IP, H, ER, BB, K; Nipp IP, H, K.
PA — Brooks 5 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 5 K; Kodama 2.1 IP, ER, 2 BB; Flaugher BB; Gaither BB; Saunders 1.2 IP, H, BB, 3 K.
PDX — Skoro 1-3, R; Sundburg 1-3, R; Jablonski 1-4, Leibl 1-4.
PA — Matthews 3-4, 2B, 2 R; Flodstrom 3-4, R, 2B; Oakley 2-5, 2B, RBI; Holman 1-2, R, 2 BB, 2B; Saunders 2-4, R, 2B; Chong 1-4, R, RBI