Trailing 4-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning, the prospects certainly didn't look too good for the Medford Rogues on Tuesday night at Harry & David Field.
But thanks to a stifling effort in relief by Brandon Williams and an ensuing offensive onslaught that included an eight-run inning, the Rogues were able to turn things around in a big way to take the series opener 15-6 in front of a crowd of 1,232.
RECAP: Brandon Williams pitches 32Ā"3 innings of scoreless relief and Medford breaks out with 19 hits and an eight-run seventh inning to secure its sixth comeback victory in WCL play.
UP NEXT: Victoria at Medford, 6:35 tonight at Harry & David Field.
En route to the comeback victory — Medford's sixth in West Coast League baseball play and eighth overall — the Rogues tied a season high with 19 hits and set a new standard for runs scored in one inning with a seventh-inning surge that put the game out of reach as well as runs scored overall.
"We stung 21 baseballs today and we were 37-for-50 on quality at-bats so I don't know if we've had a better offensive day," said Rogues head coach Josh Hogan. "I've got to tip my hat to our guys. After an 11-hour bus ride (from Wenatchee, Wash.), getting home at 9 a.m. today and then having a kids camp right after that, they really battled."
"(Victoria) really punched us hard early (up 6-3 at one point) and I'm really proud of our guys' fight today," added Hogan. "They just battled and wore the punches and just said screw it we're gonna punch right back."
Kevin Davidson, one of three Rogues selected for the WCL's All-Star game next Tuesday, entered the game two RBIs behind league-leader Derek Dixon of Bend but finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs to sit atop the league lead at 26 with Dixon, who had one RBI on Tuesday.
Oregon State's Jerad Casper had a breakout performance for the Rogues (15-19), finishing 4-for-5 with two runs, two doubles and a two-run home run that helped break the game open in the seventh. Cal State Fullerton's Niko Pacheco went 3-for-4 with one run and four RBIs, Matt Taylor was 2-for-3 with three runs, two walks and one RBI and Oregon's A.J. Balta scored twice with one RBI in a 2-for-4 effort.
Game 2 of the series starts at 6:35 tonight, following a Medford Mustangs game against Wilson that begins at 3 p.m. Those who purchase a ticket for the Mustangs game are eligible to stay and get in free for the Rogues game to follow at Harry & David Field.
First pitch for the three-game series finale against Victoria (15-15) is at 10 a.m. Thursday.
While the offensive exploits were notable, no one played a more vital role in Tuesday's victory than Williams, who entered with his team trailing 6-3 with a runner on second base in the fourth inning and quickly put out the fire. The Mount Hood Junior College right-hander pitched 32/3 innings of scoreless relief to get starter Chad Hockin off the hook. Williams allowed only one hit with five strikeouts and one walk in his best outing thus far.
Making things even more exciting for Williams was that he just got back into Medford earlier Tuesday from a weeklong family vacation in Whistler, British Columbia.
"I was a little nervous just coming back," he said, "but I wanted to try to pump up the zone a little bit and I've been working on a curveball, too. I was throwing all the pitches for strikes and got a lot of swings and misses."
As someone who has been a starter and been used in relief, Williams said his mindset was simply to slow Victoria's bats down long enough for his own team to get a chance to hit its stride.
"I just wanted to make sure I put up a lot of doughnuts to keep our team in there," he added.
What he provided proved invaluable, and allowed him to improve to 1-3 after his first appearance since June 26.
"He was huge for us today," said Hogan. "He did a phenomenal job of giving us a chance. I couldn't have been more happy with him. That's what we're going to need. We're going to need our bullpen to really step up for us, and with him back that really gives us that middle relief option that we've really been looking for."
"Brandon Williams kinda pitches backwards, first with his offspeed and then with his fastball because there's such a big speed difference," added Hogan. "We thought that would be a good matchup against them even though he'd been gone for so long and hadn't pitched, and he just went out there and just pounded the zone."
With the HarbourCats finally slowed after four extra-base efforts among their first six hits, the Rogues claimed the momentum with a pair of three-run innings in the third and fourth to tie the game at 6-all. Medford went ahead 7-6 and then put the contest out of reach in a seventh inning that saw the Rogues send 11 batters to the plate and post eight runs on five hits.
Danny McNabb lined the first pitch of the inning off reliever Will Ballowe, then Spencer Smith reached on a sacrifice bunt that resulted in him being safe on an errant throw by Ballowe. After Taylor walked to load the bases, Tanner Kiest came on in relief but failed to get an out as he was greeted with a two-run single by Davidson on a full-count pitch and an RBI single by Balta.
A walk to Parker Miles brought Kiest's night to a close but Victoria reliever Cameron Cuneo didn't fare much better as Pacheco cued a ball over the first baseman for two more runs and then Casper provided the night's highlight with a two-run homer off the scoreboard in left field.
Chase Tokunaga pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Casper closed out the night with a perfect ninth inning. The third baseman Casper has now pitched three innings, counting a nonleague contest against Central Oregon, and struck out seven without seeing more than three batters per inning. The Beavers had asked the Rogues to give him some time on the bump this summer.
The way the game played out was in stark contrast to how it began, however. Hockin got a little behind and got the ball up on his pitches in the first inning and Victoria took full advantage with two runs on three hits — including doubles by Jordan Ellis and Dylan Lavelle.
The HarbourCats' lead ballooned to 4-0 in the third on a pair of RBI groundouts by Chris Lewis, who played last summer in Medford for the now defunct Southern Oregon RiverDawgs, and Lavelle.
The Rogues broke out finally with a three-run third inning, with designated hitter Taylor reaching on a bunt single and Medford loading the bases on a single by Davidson and walk to Balta. Miles then drew an RBI walk before catcher Pacheco ripped a two-run single to right-center field.
A two-run double by Victoria's Tim Richards allowed the HarbourCats to extend their lead to 6-3 in the top of the fourth, but Medford again had an answer with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the frame. After McNabb reached on an error, consecutive one-out doubles by Taylor and Davidson brought the Rogues close and then a wild pitch equaled the score at 6-all.
Medford went ahead for the first time in the fifth inning when Smith plated Casper on a squeeze bunt, and then it was all Rogues after that thanks to their seventh-inning outburst.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Richards ss 5 1 2 2 Smith cf 4 1 1 1
Ellis dh 5 2 2 0 Taylor dh 3 3 2 1
Real 1b 2 1 1 1 Whislr 2b-ph 1 0 1 0
Lewis rf 3 0 0 1 Davidson 1b 6 3 3 3
LaVelle 3b 4 0 1 2 Balta lf 4 2 2 1
D. Schkt c 4 0 0 0 Urban lf-ph 1 0 1 0
J. Schkt 2b 4 0 1 0 Miles 2b-3b 3 1 0 1
Urabe lf 1 1 0 0 Pacheco c 4 1 3 4
Smith lf-ph 2 0 0 0 Casper 3b-p 5 2 4 2
Darr cf 2 1 0 0 McIntire ss 3 0 0 0
Russell ph 1 0 0 0 Wynant ph-ss 2 0 0 0
McNabb rf 5 2 2 0
Totals 33 6 7 6 Totals 41 15 19 13
Victoria 202 200 000 —6
Medford 003 310 80x —15
E—Lewis, J. Schuknecht, Ballowe, Pacheco. DP—Victoria 2. LOB—Victoria 5, Medford 11. 2B—Richards, Ellis, Real, D. LaVelle, Taylor, Davidson, Pacheco, Casper 2. HR—Casper. CS — Ellis.
IP H R ER BB SO
Kuzminsky 31/3 6 6 5 4 5
Ballowe, L (0-3) 22/3 7 4 3 2 3
Kiest 0 2 3 3 1 0
Cuneo 1 2 2 2 0 0
Record 1 2 0 0 0 0
Hockin 31/3 6 6 5 2 1
Williams, W (1-3) 32/3 1 0 0 1 5
Tokunaga 1 0 0 0 0 1
Casper 1 0 0 0 0 1
WP—Ballowe, Hockin. Umpires—Home, Craig Compton First, Alex Chavez Third, Scott Rice. T—3:01. A—1,232.