Medford continued to show its flair for dramatics Wednesday night, saving its best for last once again, but got caught playing with fire in the West Coast League baseball opener at Harry & David Field.
The Rogues erased an early 4-0 deficit and took an 8-7 lead with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning but couldn't hold the advantage as Bellingham tied it in the ninth and pulled ahead for good in the 10th inning to secure an 11-8 triumph.
RECAP: Bellingham scores once in the top of the ninth to extend the game and tacks on three more on a double by Ryan Malone in the 10th inning to claim the WCL season opener.
UP NEXT: Bellingham at Medford, 6:35 tonight at Harry & David Field.
"Balls fell their way today, balls fell our way today and eventually it just landed on their side of the line more than it did ours," said Rogues catcher Ryan Teel, who reached safely in all five at-bats. "We battled though, coming all the way back from down 4-0 in the third inning. It just didn't happen for us."
Medford was able to load the bases in the bottom of the 10th on a pair of walks to Teel and Caleb Palensky and a two-out single by Ray McIntire but that's as close as the Rogues could get in their regular-season debut in front of a paid crowd of 1,282.
With pinch-hitter Vince Ampi at the plate, Bellingham reliever Marc Huberman tossed one of six wild pitches by the Bells on his first offering. Hoping to seize the moment, Teel broke for home but was thrown out for the final out when catcher Ryan Malone quickly retrieved the ball and fired back to Huberman at the plate.
"The third base coach and I both saw it kick off hard," said Teel. "It was a straight fastball off his glove, it should've gone further than it did. But the grass has been thick all summer so I think it just got caught up and I was out, it happens."
The teams will return to Harry & David for the middle game of a three-game series at 6:35 tonight.
After posting a 5-0 preseason record that included a pair of comeback victories — one in 11 innings — the Rogues suffered their first defeat Wednesday, getting outhit 12-5 in a game that saw the teams combine for five errors, eight wild pitches and three passed balls.
"This is the first game of 65 in basically (71 days)," said Teel, a sophomore at the University of Nevada. "It's every day and it's a grind but you learn things when you lose so we're going to come back and be better tomorrow."
The Rogues (0-1) used a three-run eighth inning to bring hope to the home crowd and take an 8-7 lead. Teel sparked the surge with a two-out ground rule double down the right field line — one of two on the night for him — and advanced on back-to-back walks to Palensky and Colin Sowers that loaded the bases. A passed ball allowed Teel to score, then two runs came across on a grounder by McIntire that was bobbled by second baseman Ryan Yamane and then thrown wild toward home for a second error on the play as Sowers never stopped running from second base.
Medford's chance to close out the opener went awry in the top of the ninth, however, when Aaron Sandefur drew a leadoff walk from Dillon Keene and eventually scored after Ryan Kirby was hit by a pitch, Walker Olis earned two-out walk and Johnny Farrington reached on an infield single that saw first baseman Matt Page charge the slow roller to his right with no chance of a play at any base.
In the 10th, Mike Annunziata reached on a comebacker that was bobbled by Keene and then two straight batters were plunked to load the bases. With no outs, Malone sliced a ball to right field that saw Shakeel Newton hesitate on the ball and then watch helplessly as it skipped past him to allow three runs to score on a double. Malone took third on the throw home but was stranded when Keene induced a short flyout to Newton and then a double play on a popup to Teel that was relayed to McIntire at third base.
The Rogues fought hard to the end in the bottom of the frame but simply couldn't conjure the same magic as it had in previous games.
"Both teams battled really hard," said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. "It was a really good baseball game, we just need to take care of the baseball a little bit better and not let the calls affect our emotions and our play."
"Our mentality was we were going to chip away because it's a long game and I thought they did a great job of that," he added. "We gave up way too many free bases, though, with walking people and passed balls. We need to clean that up. One of our big things is we need to be under five free bases every game and we're going to have a good shot to win and we had 11 today so that's not what we're looking for there."
Teel finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, one single and three runs scored to pace the Rogues. He also reached on an error and a walk. Medford also got RBI efforts from Quentin Urban, Corey Wynant and McIntire.
For Bellingham, Annunziata scored three times while Sandefur plated three runs and scored three times.
"I got lucky," said Teel. "I poked two balls down the right field line and poked a ball into shallow left field. Wood bats are taking a little bit of power away and balls are falling in, where in the regular season they'd be caught."
Bellingham opened a 4-0 lead in the third inning behind a three-run double from Sandefur and a run-scoring error when second baseman AJ Balta charged a chopper by Riley Smith but couldn't get a glove on it.
Medford gradually clawed back with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make it 4-2.
In the fifth, Teel reached on error and eventually scored on a single by McIntire. With runners on second and third, the Rogues missed a chance for more when Newton lined to shortstop Farrington and McIntire was doubled off second base.
In the sixth, Balta reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Wynant.
After Bellingham answered with a run in the top of the seventh when Annunziata scored on a balk by Chase Tokunaga, Medford finally caught fire with three runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Teel slapped a ground-rule double to open the seventh for the Rogues. Three one-out walks and three wild pitches helped draw Medford even at 5-all when Teel and Sowers scored on errant throws and McIntire was plated on a sacrifice fly by Urban.
Bells 11, Rogues 8
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Frrington ss 6 0 1 1 Urban cf 2 0 0 1
Yamane 2b 4 1 1 0 Balta 2b 4 1 0 0
Annuzta rf 6 3 3 1 Wynant ss 4 0 0 1
Angerer 1b 4 2 2 0 Page 1b 5 0 0 0
Sandefur 3b 4 3 1 3 Teel c 4 3 3 0
Malone c 6 1 2 3 Palensky dh 3 1 0 0
Smith dh 4 0 0 0 Sowers lf 2 2 0 0
Kirby ph 1 0 0 0 McIntire 3b 4 1 2 1
Andersn cf 6 1 2 1 Newton rf 3 0 0 0
Leverett lf 3 0 0 0 Ampi ph 0 0 0 0
Olis lf-ph 0 0 0 0
Totals 44 11 13 9 Totals 31 8 5 3
Bellingham 004 000 121 3 —11
Medford 000 011 330 0 —8
E—Farrington (1), Yamane 2 (2), Balta (1), Keene (1). LOB—Bellingham 12, Medford 6. 2B — Farrington (1), Sandefur (1), Malone (1), Teel 2 (2). RBI — Farrington (1), Annuziata (1), Sandefur 3 (3), Malone 3 (3), Anderson (1), Urban (1), Wynant (1), McIntire (1). SB — Anderson (1), Urban (1), Balta (1). CS — Teel (1).
IP H R ER BB SO
Hager 6 3 3 2 1 2
Phillips 1/3 0 2 2 3 0
Rucker W, 1-0 22/3 1 3 0 2 5
Huberman S, 1 1 1 0 0 2 2
DeRooy 6 6 4 3 1 5
Tokunaga 12/3 4 3 3 0 2
Keene L, 0-2 21/3 3 4 3 2 3
WP — Hager, Phillips 3, Rucker, Huberman, Tokunaga 2. PB — Malone 2, Teel. HB — Hager 2, DeRooy, Tokunaga 2, Keene 3. T — 4:00. A — 1,282.