With his team in a bit of a slump, Medford Rogues head coach Josh Hogan needed someone to step up in a big way Saturday night in West Coast League baseball action at Harry & David Field.
Despite his status as the smallest starter in Medford's lineup against Cowlitz, no one was bigger than 5-foot-8 third baseman Parker Miles on this night in front of a crowd of 1,273.
BLACK BEARS 5
The UC Santa Barbara product plated one run in the first inning to get his team off to a good start and then blasted a clutch two-out grand slam in the fifth inning that helped rally the Rogues to a 9-5 win over the Black Bears.
The come-from-behind effort allowed Medford (21-22) to snap a three-game losing streak and also extend its home winning streak to eight games. Cowlitz (20-20) led 5-2 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
"It was big for us to come out and get a win," said Miles. "We needed to get back on the winning streak and hopefully we can keep it going."
The second game of the three-game series begins at 5:05 tonight at Harry & David Field.
Miles' effort didn't lack for drama, mind you. The 198-pounder sent his shot into the teeth of an incoming wind from left field that allowed left fielder Derrick Salberg a chance at the ball. Salberg tracked the drive off Cowlitz starter Dominic Mazza and made a leaping effort at the fence that wound up glancing off his glove and falling just over the fence above the Batzer Construction sign.
"Parker really stepped up for us there," said Hogan. "I just wanted him to have a quality at-bat but he got a pitch that was elevated and he got on top of it and it hit off Salberg's glove and went over so I was pretty happy about that. It was nice to get a little break like that because we've had breaks not go our way this year."
The home run was the first of the summer for Miles, who entered the game batting .292 with only two extra-base hits. It was also the first grand slam in the history of the first-year Rogues franchise.
"(Mazza) went to my college so I know what he's got," said Miles of his homer. "He's got a really good changeup and I was sitting changeup the whole game. He made a mistake and I closed my eyes to swing as hard as I can and then watched it go over the fence. It felt good."
As good as it felt to hit the ball, Miles admitted there were a few moments of uncertainty as Salberg went up for the baseball.
"I wasn't sure it was out but I was definitely hoping," he said. "Once I saw it go over the fence it was all smiles from there. You always love a grand slam."
The big blast helped make a winner of Medford starting pitcher Bret DeRooy, who earned the win in Tuesday's WCL All-Star game, and moved his record to 2-2 for the Rogues with an unusual linescore. The starting left-hander pitched six innings and allowed five runs — but only one earned — with eight hits and three walks.
Chase Tokunaga and Hector Lujan combined for three scoreless innings of relief to preserve Medford's advantage and help rid the team of the bad taste left by three straight road losses to the Corvallis Knights leading up to Saturday's contest.
"We didn't play very good baseball at all up in Corvallis and that was frustrating after a good run that we had," said Hogan, whose team had won six straight prior to the series. "But we're just looking forward to the next game that's ahead of us every day and trying to take it one pitch at a time."
Rogues center fielder Spencer Smith extended his hitting streak to eight games with a first-inning double and finished 3-for-5 with one run and two RBIs for Medford, while Kevin Davidson was 1-for-3 with two runs and one RBI.
For Cowlitz, Salberg went 2-for-4 with one run and three RBIs, Paul Martinez was 3-for-4 and Corey VanDomelen and Danny Recio each had two hits.
The Rogues added three insurance runs in the eighth inning after reliever Billy Sahlinger walked three straight batters with one out. Corey Wynant supplied a sacrifice fly RBI thanks to a nice slide around the tag by Joe Chavez and Smith followed with a two-run single.
"Our thing is if we just take care of the baseball and throw strikes, we're pretty good," said Hogan. "But when we get those free bases going for the other team, that's when we struggle. Hopefully we can keep this rolling and limit those free bases."
Medford struck for a pair of runs in the first inning behind doubles from Spencer Smith and Kevin Davidson, a single by Jerad Casper and a fielder's choice RBI by Miles.
Cowlitz came right back in the second with two runs on RBI efforts by Martinez and Salberg, then opened a 5-2 lead in the fourth on a two-run double by the No. 9 hitter Salberg and an RBI single by Kyle Knigge.
In the fateful fifth inning for Medford, Wynant singled to open the frame and, with one out, Ryan Degner singled to center field and Davidson drew a walk to load the bases. Mazza was able to strike out Casper to slow the surge, but couldn't sneak a two-out changeup by Miles for the momentum changer.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Knigge 1b 5 0 1 1 Smith cf 5 1 3 2
VanDomelen ss 4 0 2 0 Degner rf 4 1 1 0
Bolasky rf 4 0 1 0 Davidson 1b 3 2 1 1
Recio c 5 0 2 0 Casper dh 4 0 1 0
Aguilar dh 4 1 0 0 Miles 3b 4 1 1 5
Grebeck cf 4 2 0 0 Chavez 2b 2 1 0 0
Martinez 3b 4 1 3 1 Balta lf 3 1 0 0
Ness 2b 1 0 1 0 Sowers c 3 1 0 0
Salberg 4 1 2 3 Wynant ss 3 1 1 1
Totals 35 5 12 5 Totals 31 9 8 9
Cowlitz 020 300 000 —5
Medford 200 040 03x —9
E—Grebeck, Martinez 2, Ness, Davidson, DeRooy. LOB—Cowlitz 10, Medford 5. 2B—Salberg, Smith, Davidson. HR—Miles (1) SB—Chavez 2, Balta. CS—Grebeck, Martinez, Salberg, Chavez.
IP H R ER BB SO
Mazza,L (3-2) 51/3 7 6 6 2 4
Sahlinger 22/3 1 3 3 3 1
DeRooy,W (2-2) 6 8 5 1 3 0
Tokunaga 2 3 0 0 1 3
Lujan 1 1 0 0 0 1
HBP—Bolasky. Umpires—Home, Jerry Ecklund First, Randy Horner Third, Greg Jaquette. T—2:47. A—1,273.