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Rogues' hot bats take down Cowlitz

As bad as it looked early for the Medford Rogues, the West Coast League South Division leaders found a way to turn things around in big fashion Friday night during the series opener against Cowlitz at Harry & David Field.

Medford used a six-run fifth inning to reclaim the lead and then put the contest away with a five-run eighth inning en route to a 14-6 victory over the Black Bears (7-6) in front of a lively crowd of 2,576.

The middle game of the three-game series begins at 6:35 tonight, with Brandon Erickson (1-1, 2.07 ERA) taking the mound for Medford while Cowlitz counters with Kohl Hestert (1-0, 2.00 ERA).

"It was a shaky start," Rogues manager Josh Hogan said of a quick 2-0 deficit. "Defensively, we had a few miscues there and they took advantage of it. The great thing was we didn't let it get to us. We stayed with our process, didn't hang our heads and just battled back."

Those battles were built at the plate, where Medford (8-5, 8-3 WCL) only scored in three innings but made each of those innings count with big numbers. The Rogues were coming off a pair of nonleague losses to Top Speed Baseball and were itching to get back on top.

"We wanted to come out and show that the losses to Top Speed, even though they're a good team, are not what we're like," said Rogues designated hitter Nathan Etheridge. "We wanted to come back and dominate a little bit. We try to piece together a couple runs every inning, that's the goal, but those big innings are always helpful."

Etheridge, who hails from Grants Pass, helped lead the charge by going 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs, while Blaine Tanner was 3-for-4 with one run and two RBIs and Adonis Morrison came in clutch with five RBIs.

Overall, Medford belted out 15 hits to offset a night when Cowlitz managed 11 hits.

"Our quality at-bats today were outstanding," said Hogan. "We had 32 out of 44 as quality at-bats with 21 stung balls, and anytime you have even 10 you're hitting the ball pretty good."

A shaky start put Medford in a hole right away, with Cowlitz scoring a pair of first-inning runs off starter David Peterson behind an RBI double from Joey Greco, RBI single by Jonathon Serven and two of the team's four errors.

The Rogues finally broke out in a big way in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Morrison highlighting the frame by belting a bases-clearing three-run double. One-out singles by Tanner Lubach and Etheridge and a two-out walk drawn by Joe Chavez put Morrison in the spotlight.

On a 3-2 pitch by Cowlitz starter Zebastian Valenzuela, Morrison smashed a towering shot to the right-center field gap that one-hopped the fence and put the Rogues up 3-2.

"That was huge and really got the momentum on our side," said Hogan. "He's just done a great job of coming in and being confident and knowing his game. He really wasn't trying to do too much with it. He's just been very good for us in this early part of the season."

For his part, Morrison said he was simply trying to find a way to spark the team.

"We were battling as a team and I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit and see what I could do with it," he said.

The excitement over holding a lead was short-lived, however, as Cowlitz caught fire against Peterson with one-out doubles by Austin Baker and Caleb Hamilton. Casey Worden then singled through the left side of the infield and, after a sacrifice fly by Greco made it 4-3 Cowlitz, Worden came in to score on a single by Serven and subsequent throwing error by Chavez at second base.

Undaunted by their 5-3 deficit, the Rogues roared back in the bottom of the fifth to the delight of the home crowd.

Spencer Smith drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a balk before Yuto Kata energized the crowd with an RBI double down the left-field line that hopped into the home bullpen. Cowlitz opted to turn to right-handed reliever Reza Aleaziz, but the Oregon State freshman from Tigard didn't bring the results the Black Bears hoped.

Lubach greeted Aleaziz with a single through the left side of the infield, then Etheridge followed with an RBI single off the Southridge High product to tie the game at 5-all. After a balk put both runners in scoring position, Chris DeVito walked to load the bases. An RBI walk drawn by Chavez put an end to the day for Aleaziz, and Morrison greeted reliever Henry Omana with a sacrifice fly for a 7-5 Medford advantage.

Keeping the pressure on, Tanner ripped a two-run single past the diving effort of shortstop Kyle Hunt to cap the six-run frame for the Rogues.

"In those big innings we just continuously put quality at-bat after quality at-bat and just put the pressure on them," said Hogan. "Our at-bats were very, very good. We didn't take many off today."

Cowlitz scratched for a run against relief pitcher Trent Shelton, making his Rogues debut in the eighth inning, with a double by Ryan Aguilar and RBI single by Brian Poupore but couldn't get any closer.

Tanner singled to left field and quickly came around the bases to answer in the bottom of the eighth. Jake Menzhuber's pickoff throw went wide of first base to send the hustling Tanner toward third base, where the throw by first baseman Chris Iriart was offline and allowed the Morehead State product to score on a second error on the play.

Medford tacked on four more runs on RBI singles by Kata, Chavez and Morrison and an RBI double by Etheridge to finish the scoring against Cowlitz.

"It was a good team contribution, everybody hit and everybody did their part," added Morrison. "We played defense, our pitchers got after it and jumped ahead so it was a good team win."

Peterson struck out five and allowed four earned runs in five innings to improve to 2-0, while Shane Quarterley and Christian Cox combined for three scoreless innings in relief.

Cowlitz Black Bears 200 030 010 — 6 11 3

Medford Rogues 000 360 05x — 14 15 4

Valenzuela, Aleaziz (5), Omana (5), Menzuber (7), Rossman (8) and Worden; Peterson, Quarterley (6), Shelton (8), Cox (9) and Lubach. W — Peterson (2-0). L — Aleaziz. 2B — C: Greco, Iriart, Baker, Hamilton, Aguilar; M: Morrison, Kata, Etheridge.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry