With his parents in the stands for their first West Coast League baseball summer series, Spencer Smith wanted to do something to make their visit to Medford a special one.
He accomplished that and much more Saturday against the Klamath Falls Gems at Harry & David Field.
RECAP: Spencer Smith goes 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, and pitchers Jamie Flynn and Brandon Williams combine on a five-hitter to lead Medford.
UP NEXT: Klamath Falls at Medford, 5:05 tonight at Harry & David Field.
The Tigard native plated two runs for the Medford Rogues, including a go-ahead effort in the seventh inning, to help send his team to its fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the visiting Gems in front of a crowd of 2,223.
With the win, the Rogues also tied a WCL record for the most wins by an expansion team in league history, improving to 19-19 overall heading into tonight's series finale at 5:05.
"I guess you want to show off a little bit," Smith said with a smile of his 2-for-3 outing.
There really wasn't any grandeur to Smith's effort. In truth it was the little things that allowed him to stand out on this night. He perfectly executed a squeeze bunt in the fifth inning to help Medford pull even with the Gems (17-19), then came through in the clutch by punching a two-out single through the right side of the infield for the eventual game-winner.
"Spencer's been clutch for us and we can do a lot of things with him," said Rogues head coach Josh Hogan. "He's had phenomenal two-strike battles these last couple weeks, and it's been really fun to watch him mature as a player and as a person this summer."
Jerad Casper also plated a run for the Rogues and extended his hitting streak to six games, while Ashland's Jamie Flynn combined with Brandon Williams on a five-hitter to keep Klamath Falls at bay. All five hits were against Flynn, who allowed two runs — one earned — in his five innings with one walk and one hit batter. Williams struck out three in four hitless innings of relief to improve his pitching record to 2-3.
"We're just limiting the free bases that I was complaining about at the first part of the year," Hogan said of his team's current hot streak. "We're not shooting ourselves in the foot as frequently, and when we do give up a free base, we bounce right back and get over it and take care of the baseball. We haven't let that free base just accumulate and accumulate and then they get that big hit."
Shortstop Joe Chavez continued his steady play up the middle and scored twice, while Casper made a fine leaping grab at third base to halt a scoring threat by the Gems in the fifth and the Rogues turned two double plays.
As for Smith, the summer just keeps getting better by the day. He was a redshirt sophomore this past season at Lane Junior College, where Hogan serves as an assistant coach, and wasn't necessarily penciled in as a key fixture heading into the program's debut campaign.
"It's just been a real fun time," said Smith, who entered Saturday hitting .283. "I didn't come in as a starter but I've kinda worked my way up. I've just been sticking with the process, and I've had the support of this whole team all along, it's been phenomenal."
While sitting out a season, as Smith did this past spring, certainly leads to a little rust when it comes to playing the game, the center fielder said it also provided motivation for the summer.
"Taking the time off, it just made me really appreciate the game," he said. "Coming out and getting the opportunity day in and day out to play when you didn't have that chance before, it lets you know you don't want to take anything for granted. That's what's kept me going, just going and playing my hardest every day because you never know."
Saturday's outcome certainly was in doubt throughout the contest, with Medford and Klamath Falls going back and forth through the first six innings.
Klamath Falls scratched first for a run in the second inning after a leadoff walk to Nick Fisher resulted in an RBI groundout by Chet Thompson following two straight bunts.
The Rogues pulled even in the fourth when Matt Taylor and Kevin Davidson opened the frame with singles and Casper plated Taylor with a sacrifice fly.
Bouncing right back, the Gems regained a short-lived advantage in the fifth when a leadoff fielding error put Craig Meredith on base and he scored following consecutive singles by Ryan Clark and Peter Maris.
Medford stormed right back, however, in the bottom half of the frame when Klamath Falls returned the favor with a leadoff error on a liner by Chavez. After a sacrifice bunt by Bo Cornish and a walk to Ryan Degner, Smith dropped a squeeze bunt up the first base line to make it 2-2.
In the bottom of the seventh, Chavez was hit by a pitch to open the frame and quickly stole second base — his second steal of the game — to get into scoring position. He moved to third on a groundout by Degner, and then Smith made sure he wouldn't be stranded there with his two-out single to the right side of the infield.
"I wasn't trying to do too much with it, I was just trying to let the ball kinda work itself," he said of the clutch effort. "I was able to stay on it through the four-hole and get the run across. It felt really good to see that go through the hole."
Williams sat the Gems down in order over the final two innings, allowing the Rogues to walk away with their third straight win of two runs or less. Medford won the series opener on Friday night in the bottom of the ninth.
"That's just a testament to our work," Smith said of the Rogues' ability to win close games. "We have guys out here every day probably four hours before the game, when no one's here and no one sees that. We work really hard and it's showing off with these wins. We just grind teams out. That's just proof with the 3-2 wins that we're letting the work show for itself."
And Smith has been proof that you can be rewarded with hard work and a good attitude.
"In the beginning of the year he didn't get a whole lot of chances," said Hogan, "but he's had the same mentality and same perseverance and drive to get better every single day. It's actually been really awesome for me to be able to watch that maturation."
KLAMATH FALLS MEDFORD
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Maris 2b 3 0 2 1 Smith cf 3 0 2 2
Dahl 2b 4 0 0 0 Taylor dh 4 1 1 0
Hough lf 4 0 0 0 Davidson 1b 4 0 2 0
Rogers 1b 4 0 1 0 Casper 3b 3 0 1 1
Fisher dh 3 1 0 0 Balta lf 4 0 1 0
Newell cf 4 0 1 0 Palensky 2b 3 0 0 0
Meredith c 1 1 0 0 Chavez ss 2 2 0 0
Daymude c 1 0 0 0 Cornish c 2 0 0 0
Thompsn rf 2 0 0 1 Degner rf 2 0 0 0
Clark ss 3 0 1 0
Totals 29 2 5 2 Totals 27 3 7 3
Klamath Falls 010 010 000 —2
Medford 000 110 10x —3
E—Clark, Casper. DP—Klamath Falls 2, Medford 2. LOB—Klamath Falls 4, Medford 6. SB — Davidson, Chavez 2. CS — Thompson.
IP H R ER BB SO
Sabo, L (4-2) 7 6 3 2 2 1
Wear 1 1 0 0 0 1
Flynn 5 5 2 1 1 0
Williams, W (2-3) 4 0 0 0 0 3
Umpires—Home, Dale Anzo First, Jerry Eklund Third, Scott Rice. T—2:11. A—2,223.