SPRINGFIELD – “We’d like one Big Culp to go, please.”
The fans at Hamlin Field – hoping to avoid extra innings as the night air’s chilly winds picked up – got their wish as Brady Culp laced a two-out walkoff hit to center field, giving the Springfield Drifters a 4-3 victory Friday night over Port Angeles to kick off their second season in the West Coast League.
“I’ve seen Brady a few times and every time I’ve seen him he has greedy at-bats and the moment’s never too big for him,” Drifters coach Tommy Richards said. “He came up in the right spot, he’s a good player, and it came together for us.”
Springfield stayed unbeaten for the weekend, winning 18-2 on Saturday and 8-2 on Sunday.
The Drifters pitching staff looked sharp Friday, allowing only five hits and no earned runs.
“We’re in this learner’s kind of mode, figuring out who’s who and getting the pulse of the ballclub and learning who can do what,” Richards said. “It was well-pitched – all the pitchers did their job, that was the bright spot – it’s the defense that we need to clean up the most.
“Offensively, we’re going to have to manufacture a little bit, we can’t really rely on the slug game – but pitching was our strength, especially pitching through some tough defense.”
The total attendance for opening night was 387 – a far cry from last year’s rain-interruped opening weekend.
“That’s like 386 more than last year’s opener,” Richards deadpanned. “But no, honestly, in the 9th inning, they were clapping when there were two outs and (Dawson) Santana was at bat. It was a good atmosphere, it’s come a long way. We appreciate everybody coming out.”
Jace Miller’s first-inning single was the first hit of the season for the Drifters. Ryan Jeffrey’s RBI triple plated the summer league team’s first run, and Gage Bruce added a run-scoring single.
Three Drifters batters drew walks in the fourth inning, when Springfield scored the tying run on a throwing error. But the host team left the bases loaded, and the score remained 3-3 until the bottom of the ninth.
After Dillion Butler opened the inning with a pinch-hit single, he stole second and Cooper Mullens was walked. Bruce and Santana both struck out, and Miller walked, loading the bases. Culp, the cleanup hitter, laced a low liner past the second baseman for the walkoff victory.
“A walkoff win on opening night – that’s pretty special,” Richards said. “So it’s a good night for us.”
In Saturday’s victory, the double-play combination of shortstop Cole Calnon and second baseman Cooper Mullens racked up 4 RBIs each, while Bruce and Miller smacked the Drifters’ first two home runs of the season.
On Sunday, Springfield’s 8-9 hitters – Kyle Casperson and Rex DeAngelis – led the team with three hits each, including a home run by DeAngelis.