It doesn’t take much to sway the balance of winning and losing when it comes to the game of baseball, and for Tuesday night’s matchup between the top two teams in the Great West League, one half of an inning provided the difference.
Leading 2-1 through seven innings, Medford missed its chance at a sixth straight GWL victory when Marysville surged ahead with four runs in the top of the eighth and held on for a 5-2 triumph on an unusually chilly night at Harry & David Field.
The Rogues (6-2) and Gold Sox (9-2) will meet again at 6:35 tonight in the tiebreaker game of the best-of-three series. Medford opened the series with a 13-0 win Monday.
“We came out and battled and were winning the whole game, it just goes to show you one inning can change the whole game,” said Rogues third baseman Cam Russ, who went 3-for-3 with one run scored. “Unfortunately that’s how it happened for us tonight, but the best part about baseball is we get to come back. We can flush it. It’s over. We can’t control it now and we can just come ready to go tomorrow.”
Medford had taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh after Braden Stutzman walked, was sacrificed to second by Russ and then scored on a hard-hit grounder that skipped off the head of Marysville second baseman Adrian Vela and into center field. Vela remained on the infield for a few moments before leaving the game under his own power.
In the top of the eighth, the Rogues turned to former Ashland High standout Jamie Flynn, who now plays at Cornell, and he struggled to find a rhythm in opening the door for the Gold Sox. A four-pitch walk to Ryan Weisenberg was followed by an RBI double from Hunter Stratton, a single by Austin Call and a two-run single by Dalton DeVries. A wild pitch and ensuing throwing error by the catcher Stutzman beyond the reach of Russ at third base allowed Marysville to build a 5-2 cushion.
After two strikeouts and a second walk, Flynn was relieved by Central Point’s Dylan Pearce, who had a wild pitch of his own before striking out leadoff batter Randy Post to end the costly inning.
“I think we had four free bases in that one inning and that kills you,” said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. “They got a few hits there, too, and that was that. That wasn’t the Jamie Flynn that we’re used to here in Medford the last three years. We know he’s better than that. He’s just got to pound the zone and not nibble and get ahead in the zone instead of trying to miss bats.”
Flynn was 2-2 with one save and a 3.37 ERA in 26⅔ innings of work last summer for the Rogues, and he pitched 18 innings in 15 relief appearances for Cornell this past spring.
Medford worked to rally thereafter, getting a one-out double by Connor Lowrie in the eighth before he was stranded. In the ninth, the Rogues used a one-out single by Russ and two-out single by Brock Pradere to give hope for a comeback. But leadoff hitter Derron Davis was called out on a tough 2-2 inside pitch by Gold Sox reliever Kyle Merkel for his fourth save of the summer.
“We just had that one inning get away from us but that’s what happens when you’re playing a good team like Marysville,” said Hogan. “You can’t give up those mistakes, they’ll come up to bite you. We take care of the baseball and we get a win there. It’s a little frustrating in that sense, but I still like this group, definitely. It’s a big one tomorrow.”
Medford received a strong starting effort from right-handed pitcher Parker Kelly, with the University of Oregon hurler allowing six hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts in six innings. He allowed three consecutive hits in the fifth inning — two on bad hops in front of camped-out infielders — but ultimately got out of the jam.
The Rogues had their scoreless inning streak snapped at 24 innings when Marysville tied the game at 1-all in the top of the sixth after Kelly got himself in a bind by hitting Gold Sox batters on his first two pitches of the frame and then allowed a single by Austin Call to load the bases. Kelly made a nice athletic play bouncing off the mound for a putout of DeVries on a fielder’s choice that made it 1-1 and then minimized the damage with two more quick outs.
“He just got tired at the end,” said Hogan. “He hasn’t had a start all year so it’s been a while for him. But we knew he was going to have the mentality and that bulldog ability to just throw strikes and will his way out of that. We trusted him there and he got it done minimizing the one run there and did a great job overall for us today.”
Medford’s first run came in the bottom of the third inning when Russ hit a liner that Marysville right fielder T.J. Dove couldn’t corral, and Russ didn’t hesitate in racing to third for a triple. Chad Bell followed with an RBI grounder to second baseman Vela that was bobbled and then thrown wide of first baseman DeVries.
“Anytime we can be aggressive on the basepaths or anywhere else, we’re all for it,” said Russ. “We’d rather go out going hard as we can than not trying at all.”
Ian Nowak finished 2-for-4 to help spur Medford’s 10-hit attack, although left fielder David Bellamy had his season-long hitting streak snapped at seven games after going 0-for-4. Bellamy entered the game ranked third in the GWL with a .400 batting average.
Stratton and Call were each 2-for-4 for Marysville, with DeVries driving in three runs.
Cushing, McCarthy (6), Merkel (9) and Stratton; Kelly, Eytel (7), Flynn (8), Pearce (8) and Stutzman. W — McCarthy (3-0). L — Flynn (0-1). S — Merkel (4). 2B — MA: Stratton; ME: Nowak, Lowrie. 3B — ME: Russ.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry