Bart Madson felt like he missed out when he moved to the Rogue Valley a couple years after the Southern Oregon Timberjacks — a minor league affiliate of the Oakland A's — had stopped playing in Medford.
An avid baseball fan, Madson wasn't about to miss out this time around with top-tier collegiate talent back in the area.
RECAP: Jake Whisler scores on a wild pitch in the 11th inning to send Medford to victory over Klamath Falls in the preseason opener.
UP NEXT: Medford at Klamath Falls, 6:35 tonight at Kiger Stadium.
The Central Point resident scooped up his daughter Harper and brought her to Harry & David Field for the preseason opener for the West Coast League's Medford Rogues, and neither left the ballpark disappointed Friday night.
Medford secured a 7-6 victory over the Klamath Falls Gems in the bottom of the 11th inning when the Rogues loaded the bases and Jake Whisler scored the game-winner on a wild pitch, much to the delight of the home crowd still on hand approaching 11 p.m.
"It was a lot of fun," Bart Madson said of the Rogues' opening game. "I always wanted a Triple-A or some kind of minor league team to watch so it was nice to see one like that out here. I just happened to find out opening night was tonight so we had to be here."
Harper Madson, who turns 5 next week, embodied the spirit of the evening. Even the dirt on her face from a full night of running around at all the Rogues had to offer couldn't hide the broad smile as she discussed her first night at a ballpark.
"She's never been to a ballgame so this is her first and she wanted to stay until the very end so we stayed until the bitter end," said her father. "It was good."
Clutching a beach ball given to her by nearby fans in the stands — and there were 1,461 on hand for the first game — Harper Madson didn't hesitate to point out her favorite part of the night.
"It was the playground," she said with a grin. "That was a lot of fun."
"We watched the first four innings," added her father, "and then it was a couple innings out on the playground and then a couple more innings in the stands. It kinda went like that the whole night."
With prize giveaways, contests and all sorts of refreshments throughout the night, it was that kind of night for most on hand. And even better, they got to be treated to some extra baseball and see the home team walk away on top at least for one night.
"Obviously we want to win these games," said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. "It's a league opponent even though it's a nonleague game, but the main thing is it was the first game in Medford Rogues history. This meant a lot to everybody here."
Whisler, a Klamath Falls product, walked to open the bottom of the 11th and was sacrificed to second by Matt Taylor. After a deep flyout to left field by Colin Sowers put Whisler on third with two outs, Caleb Palensky drew a walk and Stephen Kha was hit by a pitch to load the bases. On a 2-2 pitch to Ray McIntire, Parker Sherrell's offering skipped into the dirt and away from catcher Jarren Goddard to allow Whisler to put an exclamation mark on a night that saw the Rogues rally from a 6-3 deficit.
"Early on I think the guys had a lot of jitters but they knocked them out pretty quick and just started playing baseball," said Hogan. "Personally I loved the culture out there today. We brought everybody in off the bench today except for two (position players) and everybody contributed and their attitudes were awesome. I just couldn't be happier with all the non-result oriented things that happened here today and just the atmosphere that was here with all the fans. They really get the game here and they're into it and I really enjoyed that."
The Rogues and Gems will square off again at 6:35 tonight in Klamath Falls at Kiger Stadium. Medford will play host to the Alameda Seals at Harry & David Field on Sunday and then at Reinhart All-Sports Park in Grants Pass on Monday before wrapping up the preseason Tuesday against the American Legion Medford Mustangs.
The Medford Rogues open the regular season at home on Wednesday against the Bellingham Bells.
Medford created the stage for drama with a three-run eighth inning surge that tied the contest at 6-all.
Palensky started the outburst with a one-out double down the left field line and then scored on an RBI single by former Crater High standout Corey Wynant in his first at-bat with the Rogues. After McIntire drew a walk, Quentin Urban reached base for the fourth time with an RBI flare to left field. Urban finished 3-for-5 with one walk, one run and two RBIs.
Spencer Smith plated the tying run on a sacrifice fly to right field that included a nice slide by McIntire to avoid the tag of Goddard.
Klamath Falls opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the first inning against Medford starter Michael Bradshaw, the first on a single by Grants Pass native Ryan Hayden and the second on a fielder's choice by Chet Thompson.
Bradshaw, who was 1-1 with a 7.91 ERA in 14 appearances during the spring for Nevada, then set down seven batters in a row to close his night with four strikeouts.
The Rogues chipped away at the deficit with one run in the third when Bo Cornish sent a double past a sliding effort by center fielder Thompson and scored on a single by Urban. Medford made it 3-2 in the fourth when Matt Taylor walked, advanced on a single by former North Medford High standout Sowers and, after a sacrifice by Palensky, scored on a wild pitch.
Klamath Falls pushed its lead to 5-2 with three runs in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run double from Jack Karraker, but Medford crept back with a run in the seventh when Whisler tripled home Urban in his first at-bat with the Rogues.
After the Gems put a run on the board in the eighth to make it 6-3 on back-to-back doubles by Michael Tittle and Goddard, Medford finally broke out with its biggest inning of the contest to tie it in the bottom half of the frame.
K. Falls Gems 200 003 010 00 — 6 11 0
Medford Rogues 001 100 130 01 — 7 13 2
Johnson, Horth (5), Kelley (7), Sherrell (8) and Goddard; Bradshaw, Tokunaga (4), Hardy (6), Morrison (7), Harris (8) and Cornish, Kha (9). W — Harris. L — Sherrell. 2B — KF: Karraker, Tittle, Goddard; M: Cornish, Teel, Palensky. 3B — M: Whisler.