Pitching wasn't necessarily a mainstay earlier this summer as the Medford Rogues embarked on their debut season in the West Coast League, but things are certainly looking up these days.
At the expense of the visiting Victoria HarbourCats, the Rogues ran their scoreless innings pitched streak to 221/3 innings on Thursday en route to a 3-1 victory and a three-game sweep in front of 1,218 at Harry & David Field.
RECAP: Medford left-handed pitcher Mac Acker strikes out eight with one walk and allows only one earned run in 81ĀĄ3 innings as the Rogues complete a three-game WCL sweep of Victoria.
UP NEXT: Klamath Falls at Medford, 7:35 tonight at Harry & David Field.
Mac Acker was bidding for a complete-game shutout — a rarity in the summer collegiate wood-bat season — when he gave up a solo home run with one out in the ninth inning to Dylan LaVelle to snap the HarbourCats' drought.
After giving up another hit, Acker exited to a big ovation and was replaced by Hector Lujan, who got two quick outs to earn his second save and allow the starting left-hander to run his record to 4-2.
"I wanted to finish it myself and I'm a little upset that I didn't," said Acker, "but I'm still happy with 81/3 innings. I knew I was pitching well and my pitch count was down with not a lot of three-ball counts so I had a chance at (a complete game). My arm feels fine but coach had to get (Lujan) out there and help me clean it up a little bit."
Until those final two batters, Acker was in complete charge during the afternoon baseball game for Medford (17-19), which moved within two victories of tying the WCL record for most wins by an expansion team. Acker faced four batters or less in six of his innings and finished with eight strikeouts and seven hits allowed against only one walk. In an efficient 98-pitch outing, 69 of his offerings were strikes.
"I was just throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of hitters and trying to put them away once I was ahead, and that's what seemed to be working," said Acker, who pitched at Washington this past spring but will be a redshirt senior at Seattle University next season after transferring to pursue his master's degree.
Everything Acker was doing met the approval of Rogues head coach Josh Hogan, whose staff has now lowered its overall ERA to 4.42 heading into tonight's opening game of a three-game series against the Klamath Falls Gems (17-17).
During the streak, Medford pitchers Brandon Williams, Chase Tokunaga, Jerad Casper, John Forsythe, Dillon Keene, Jeff Hardy and Acker combined to allow only 12 hits and five walks.
"You've got to give credit to Mac Acker's work ethic and his competitiveness up there on the mound, his stuff was very good today," said Hogan, whose team has won four of its last five games. "Today was the best he's looked all year. He just keeps getting better and better on the mound and that's good to see."
"Then also you've got to give a huge credit to (pitching coach Jeff Lyle) and (strength and conditioning coach Aaron Nielsen) with what they do with the pitchers and how they make them continuously improve throughout a summer season," added Hogan. "It's really hard to do that in a summer season and that combo that we have with the pitching is a rare combo to see even at the (Division I) level throughout spring ball. It's very lucky that we have those guys."
"Our pitching staff's definitely coming along and everybody's buying in," he said. "We work really hard and the coaches push us to get out here early and get ready."
The scoreless streak wasn't necessarily on Acker's mind, his focus was on finishing the game off. And it wasn't one pitch that got away and did him in later Thursday, instead Acker was upset with the prior pitches that put him in the position that led to the no-doubt shot over the left field wall by LaVelle.
"I knew that was a home run," Acker said of his post-hit reaction. "The funny thing is I actually know that kid, I played with him in high school. He's probably feeling pretty good about himself. I should've gotten ahead of him but I fell behind 3-0 and then I threw a strike there on 3-1. I just figured we're up by three and you've got to challenge him so I threw him a fastball down the middle and he hit it."
LaVelle proved to be the only player for Victoria (15-17) to advance beyond second base in the series finale.
For Medford, Joe Chavez opened the scoring in the second inning with an RBI double down the first base line that scored Niko Pacheco, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the frame.
The Rogues tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the fourth inning when Parker Miles singled off Victoria starter Joe Navilhon and then Pacheco reached on a fielding error by shortstop Alex DeGoti.
Navilhon slowed the surge by getting two straight outs before walking Chavez in the No. 9 spot. Leadoff hitter Spencer Smith then supplied the eventual game-clinching runs with a two-run single to right-center field.
Smith and Miles each finished 2-for-4 for the Rogues, who zipped to the victory in a season-best 2 hours, 6 minutes.
"We've had a lot of adversity this summer, a lot more than usual, and these guys are just finally getting the positive results from things," Hogan said of his team's recent surge. "It's good to see because they definitely put in the work and I know they definitely want it."
ab r h bi ab r h bi
DeGoti ss 4 0 1 0 Smith cf 4 0 2 2
Ellis lf 4 0 1 0 Taylor rf 4 0 1 0
Real c 4 0 1 0 Davidson dh 4 0 1 0
Richards 2b 4 0 0 0 Balta lf 4 0 0 0
ARussell rf 4 0 1 0 Miles 2b-3b 4 1 2 0
TRussell dh 4 0 0 0 Pacheco 1b 3 2 0 0
LaVelle 3b 3 1 1 1 Casper 3b 3 0 1 0
Lewis 1b 4 0 1 0 Whisler ph-2b 1 0 0 0
Urabe cf 4 0 1 0 Cornish c 4 0 0 0
Chavez ss 2 0 1 1
Totals 35 1 7 1 Totals 33 3 8 3
Victoria 000 000 001 —1
Medford 010 200 00x —3
E—DeGoti, Real, A.Russell, Casper. LOB—Victoria 9, Medford 8. 2B—DeGoti, Chavez. HR—LaVelle (1). SB—Real, Miles. CS—Smith.
IP H R ER BB SO
Navilhon,L (3-3) 6 5 3 1 1 2
Keller 2 3 0 0 0 3
Acker,W (4-2) 81/3 7 1 1 1 8
Lujan,S (2) 2/3 0 0 0 0 1
HBP—DeGoti, Pacheco. WP—Navilhon. Umpires—Home, Scott Rice First, Alex Chavez Third, Craig Compton. T—2:06. A—1,218.