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Cheney, 'Dawgs turn back San Jose

Coming off a run of 14 straight games played on the road, it took a while for the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs to get reacquainted with their home surroundings Saturday night.

In their first game at Harry & David Field since June 28, the RiverDawgs shook off a shaky start to slowly pull away from the San Jose Seals for a 9-3 triumph.

The teams square off again today in a doubleheader beginning at 6 p.m., then wrap up the four-game homestand Monday following the 5 p.m. Medford Mustangs American Legion playoff game. Monday's RiverDawgs game stands to begin around 8 p.m.

No one experienced more highs and lows than Southern Oregon starting pitcher Jeremy Cheney. The lanky right-hander struggled with his control early before settling down to post a respectable effort.

Three of the seven hits and two of the three runs against the former Cascade Christian High standout came in the opening two innings.

"I was kinda trying everything in the first couple innings," said Cheney, who wound up allowing only two earned runs to go with two strikeouts in eight innings. "Especially in the first couple innings, the off-speed wasn't really working so I just had to keep pounding the fastball inside and out and try to keep it low and out of their reach so they couldn't really get a good hit off of it."

Cheney also was the beneficiary of several nice defensive plays behind him, most notably by third baseman Austin Coleman and shortstop Johnny Omahen.

"I had a good offense and good defense behind me," said Cheney. "I had a lot of help on the grounders I got. The fielders made a lot of plays for me."

San Jose took an early lead behind one-out singles from Karl Kobler and Able Alcantar and, after the bases were loaded when Chris Dittmann was hit by a pitch, an RBI groundout by Nick Navarro.

Southern Oregon (17-14) struck back in the bottom half of the first inning with a one-out double by Coleman to right field and a two-out double by Allen Smith over the head of Kobler in right field.

The teams traded runs in the second, with San Jose scoring after a leadoff single by Robbie Wright and a pair of RiverDawg errors. The Seals returned the favor in the bottom of the second, however, committing four errors in the frame to allow shortstop Johnny Omahen to score.

San Jose had its scoring string cut short in the third thanks to a heads up play by Coleman. With Dittmann on third after a leadoff double, Seals first baseman Xavier Garcia hit a slow grounder toward third that Dittmann broke home on, only to be thrown out on a quick throw by Coleman and tag by Aaron Hassel.

Southern Oregon created a cushion in the bottom half of the inning after scoring three runs following a single by Smith and four straight walks by San Jose starter Wright. Omahen and Marcus James each earned RBIs with their free passes, while Travis Wolf's hustle on a pop up in foul territory behind first base allowed Mitch Nelson to get an RBI on the flyout.

Given a 5-2 lead, Cheney appeared to settle down and kept the Seals reasonably contained until finally giving way to Jon Flinn in the ninth.

"I believe in letting my pitchers get in a jam and give them a little bit of adversity," said RiverDawgs manager Chris Wolf, "because that's what makes them a better ballplayer by working through that and trying to find yourself. As a coach you kinda pull your hair out and it's frustrating, but it's the only way they get better."

"I thought he did a fantastic job," Wolf added of Cheney. "He was trying to get the cheese out early and get his head clear. He did that after the first couple innings and he started to find himself. He really honed it in and made it happen for the team after that."

The 'Dawgs broke the game open in the seventh inning, using five hits and one error to plate four runs and bump their lead to 9-3. Mitch Garcia came off the bench to start the rally with a leadoff single before being replaced on the bases by Dustin Smith after a fielder's choice. Omahen followed with an RBI single and later scored on a triple by James.

Back-to-back RBI doubles by Tyler Davis and Jared Adamson capped the scoring in the happy homecoming for the RiverDawgs.

"This was good for us," said Wolf. "We've got to try to get jelled and back in the swing of things, back in the rhythm of being home and coming to this ballpark and not going on the road for an hour or so."

Adamson, Smith and James each had two hits to pace Southern Oregon, with Omahen and James driving in a pair of runs. Eight different 'Dawgs scored at least one run Saturday.

San Jose Seals 110 001 000 — 3 8 6

S. Oregon RiverDawgs 113 000 40x — 9 10 2

Wright, Navarro (7) and Mutz; Cheney, Flinn (9) and Hassel, Garcia (6). W — Cheney (4-2). L — Wright. 2B — SJ: Dittmann; SO: Coleman, A. Smith, Davis, Adamson. 3B — SO: James.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com