Drifters struggle, fall to first-place Knights

SPRINGFIELD – Close, but no cigar may as well have been the Drifters’ motto on Wednesday, July 27 when they hosted the first-place Corvallis Knights at Hamlin Field. The Drifters fell 9-6 on a scorching hot evening, but had chances to win slip through their fingers.

“I think one thing for us is we leave so many guys on base,” said Drifters head coach Tommy Richards. “We left 16 guys on base, which is just honestly, like, ridiculous.”

The offensive woes started early. In the bottom of the second inning, the Drifters had the bases loaded with only one out, yet failed to score a single run. They left a total of 10 runners in scoring position.

It wasn’t just leaving runners on base that harmed the Drifters; they had a tough time closing out innings on defense as well. The Knights scored four of their nine runs with two outs, and had a four-run fourth inning after having two hit-batsmen and one walk.

“We gave up a four-spot in the fourth. And, you know, it’s just hard to come back from big crooked numbers like that,” Richards said.

The defensive struggles started in the second inning when the Drifters had two outs and the Knights had no one on base. A hit-by-pitch followed by two doubles put the Drifters in an early 2-0 deficit.

“We’ve been killed by like, beginnings a lot this year,” Richards said. “It’s a lot to come back from and it kind of changes the way that you have to play.”

Despite the deficit, the Drifters never gave in and were able to hold their opponents to only one run in the last four innings. Then, the offense started flowing.

“One thing that we have done is we’ve always kind of stayed in the fight offensively,” Richards said.

After being down 8-1 heading into the final two innings, that fight was on full display. The Drifters scored five runs in the final two innings to make a valiant comeback, but their inability to close out innings proved to be fatal as they left the bases loaded in the eighth inning. They did make the Knights sweat for it in the end, but were unable to conquer the first-seeded team.

The Drifters fell to 16-28 on the season after the loss, putting them tied for last place in the West Coast League. Although the Drifters have been eliminated from the postseason (only the top four teams make the playoffs) Richards says there’s still a lot for the team to take away from the season.

“The whole summer we’ve always talked about living in the present moment,” Richards said. “That’s a big recipe for just winning baseball.”

As the Drifters make the turn into the final week of their inaugural season, they’re focused most on finishing strong.

“Let’s finish the summer strong, especially from the standpoint of player development,” Richards said. “And, you know, leave a good taste in our mouth when the end of the season