Medford rally falls shy despite 12 hits and 5 pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts
The weather was perfect, baseball fans of all ages crowded around Harry & David Field and there were lots of smiles here Thursday night.
All in all, not a bad opening night for the Medford Rogues, who kicked off their collegiate summer slate of wooden bats with what turned into a nail-biter that saw the Rogues come closer in a 10-8 loss to the Seattle Studs.
“A lot of resilience for the first game of the season, and that was really cool,” Rogues third-year manager Bill Rowe said of his season-opening impressions. “I think our hitters had competitive bats throughout the game and kept responding. Whenever the other team did something, we were ready and back.
“Even when the score was 10-4,” he added, “the feeling in the dugout was that we were in a good position to win the game again. Just seeing that in the first game of the season of a group of guys who have never played together, it’s pretty exciting.
The Rogues continue their three-game homestand against Seattle at 6:35 p.m. Friday, with tickets available for purchase at medfordrogues.com. A 10th anniversary fireworks display will follow the contest.
“Like I told the guys, we’re going to be on the other end of a lot of close games like this,” Rowe said. “Even if we give up 10, we will still find a way to win. We just have to keep our heads up, go back and rest and we’ll be happy to play against these guys again.
Marking their 10th season here in Rogue Valley, the Rogues opened a nine-week independent campaign – which includes 36 total home dates – in catch-up mode after allowing four Studs runs late in the first inning on five hits and two wild pitches by starter Eamon Velarde.
Medford got a pair of runs late in the first inning, with a first walk to Mike LaVigne and a Cole Arnold single setting the table.
After a sacrificial bunt from Jude Hall both runners advanced, LaVigne headed home on a denial from Seattle starter Anthony Brady. Grant Henry followed with a great hitting display that saw him cover the plate and fire an outside slider past the shortstop to make it 4-2.
After Velarde was able to seat the Studs in order, the Rogues managed to tie the game late in the second inning with a pair of two-out runs. Drew Kaatz scored on a LaVigne single that landed just inside the right field line to make it 4-3. Arnold’s single to center field then put the runners in the corners, and Hall beat an infield single to shortstop to bring LaVigne home and tie it at 4-all.
Seattle fell back with a go-ahead in the fourth inning after right fielder Trey Nelson got caught in no-man’s land between making a play on a low liner from Nate DeLaCruz or staying back. The ball landed in front of Nelson for a single and passed him to allow DeLaCruz to reach third base. He then scored on a sacrifice fly ball from Brady Hinkle.
A two-out triple from hitter No. 9 Payton Smith set up Landon Riker, who went 6-4 on a hot shot that was knocked down by third baseman Kaatz but did not result in an out.
Seattle’s lead grew to 10-4 in 6 1/2 innings, highlighted by a two-run homer from Chris Schuchart in the sixth, before the Rogues began to turn the tide.
Hall fired up a three-run seventh inning for Medford, leading the frame with a wild third strike that saw him race over the line to reach safely. Two stolen bases and a pair of walks drawn by Henry and Dylan Jester later, Logan Drummond scored a run with a fielder’s pick.
Trey Nelson added an RBI single and Tyler Peterson drew a goal-laden walk to make it 10-7 with just one out in the seventh, but the Rogues couldn’t get closer thanks to a flyout and strikeout.
By then, Medford had left 10 runners on base and six in scoring position by going 4-for-15 in those situations.
“We started a few innings with really hard hitting balls for outs, we got a guy going from second to third and a few other things,” Rowe said, “but that’s baseball.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Hall turned a bunt single into a spot at second base after an error on the throw to first base by Seattle reliever Jacob Bradley. Hall tacked on his stolen third base and, after walks to Henry and Jester loaded the bases, came to score on a sacrifice fly from Drummond.
Still with a great chance to maintain momentum and potentially tie or take the lead, the Rogues saw their rally crumble when Bradley recorded back-to-back strikeouts.
In Medford’s dying breath, Peterson landed his second brace of the night but again found it difficult to reach third base as he was forced out on a tight play at third base following a wild pitch of Bradley.
Two ensuing groundouts sealed the victory for Seattle, which overcame 14 combined strikeouts by five Rogues pitchers. Jacob Liberta produced four of those strikeouts in two scoreless relief innings, while Velarde, Braeden Munger and Jack Erickson each had three strikeouts.
The Studs managed to beat the Rogues 13-12, with Schuchart 2-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs for Seattle.
“It’s different for every guy,” Rowe said of the give-and-take pitching effort. “Every pitcher we have doesn’t come out of a season where he’s been used for a bunch of innings. Some guys had arm surgery at the start of the season and played for two months, some guys gave up a bunch of runs and weren’t used for the rest of the season. But these are all guys who have presented well for us so we really have to go out and see what they have and get into the development part of what they need to do to improve and then we give them a plan on how to improve over the summer.
Hall was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI for Medford, which had two hits apiece from Arnold, Nelson and Peterson.
Brady, Moritz (4), Hale (7), Bradley (7) and Hinkle; Velarde, Gray. Henry (4), Munger (5), Erickson (6), Liberta (8) and Jester. W-Brady (1-0). L-Gri. Henry (0-1). 2B-S: Riker, Smith; M: Peterson 2. 3B — S: Smith. RH—S: Schuchart.
Have a local history idea? Contact sportswriter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, [email protected], www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneMedford Rogues second baseman Michael LaVigne makes a play for one out in the second inning.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneMedford Rogues wide receiver Dylan Jester receives punches after being introduced during pre-match ceremonies at Harry & David Field in Medford on Thursday night.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneRogues general manager Dave May smashes home plate at Harry & David Field in Medford on Thursday night.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMedford Rogues pitcher Eamon Velarde delivers a pitch during the third inning.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneMedford Rogues shortstop Cole Arnold connects for a hit in the second inning.
Medford Rogues general manager Dave May talks to fans during Thursday’s season opener at Harry & David Field.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneRogues Shortstop Cole Arnold dives but misses the ball on the ground in the first inning.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneMedford Rogues third baseman Drew Kaatz makes a play for one out in the third inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMedford Rogues pitcher Eamon Velarde delivers a pitch during the second inning.