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Heat denies Rogues in Game 2 of championship series

Maybe it was preordained or maybe it’s simply fitting given the way the inaugural Great West League season has gone this summer.

However you want to view it, there will be a winner-take-all scenario when the Medford Rogues host the Chico Heat at 6:35 tonight in a decisive Game 3 of the GWL Championship Series at Harry & David Field.

Chico forced the situation Saturday night by putting Medford on its heels with a 9-3 triumph in Game 2 in front of 1,042 on hand. The Rogues, who went 40-17 to earn the GWL regular-season title, had opened the best-of-three series with a 12-4 win Friday in Chico.

In what has been a tightly contested rivalry between Medford (41-18) and the second-place Heat (35-24), the teams have evenly split their 14 meetings — with each team posting a 4-3 record at home and 3-4 record on the road.

“It’s just more adversity,” said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. “This year has been full of adversity for us with bus rides and just random little things that have gone sideways and caused adversity and these guys have responded the right way every single time, and we don’t expect anything less tomorrow.”

Already short-handed with the loss of several regulars, the Rogues played their final game with second-leading hitter Derron Davis on Saturday. The two-time All-Star will definitely be missed against expected Chico starter Stuart Bradley (7-2, 1.83 ERA) from Chico State, but Medford has shown a knack for rising to the challenge all summer and Hogan doesn’t see that changing on the final day of the debut GWL season.

“We’re excited and we’re short-handed but we’ve given them the analogy of Gideon’s army of 300 in the Bible,” said Hogan. “We’re the underdogs but this is the right team to go into Game 3 with some adversity. I love our chances.”

“We’ve just got to take care of the baseball,” added the fourth-year manager. “We gave away 16 free bases today. (Chico) played well but we didn’t play well at all, it was kind of the opposite of (Friday) for both teams. But that’s baseball and that’s the exciting thing. We get to come out tomorrow with one last game to wear this uniform and have a chance to dogpile.”

Heat starter Luke Soroko, who redshirted this past season at the University of Arizona, tossed a complete-game six-hitter to deny the Rogues a series sweep. The right-hander struck out seven, walked three and allowed one earned run on 113 pitches.

“He was mixing the zone well and keeping us off-balance and he threw strikes,” said Hogan. “He did a good job and competed tonight.”

Leadoff doubles by Cameron Olson and Daniel Schneemann opened the door for an early two-run surge Saturday by the Heat, who pulled off a double steal to plate the second run against Medford starter D.J. Wilson.

Chico’s lead was 3-0 in the third when Brock Pradere gave his team a lift after being hit by a pitch. After advancing to second on a fielder’s choice, Pradere raced home when Jayden Hanna’s grounder was knocked down by Schneemann at shortstop but couldn’t be recovered in time to nab the nonstop Pradere at home.

One of the Rogues’ three errors Saturday helped lead to another two-run frame in the top of the fifth inning by Chico, which got a leadoff double by Josh Falco and single by Keaton Kringlen to set the table.

Medford used a leadoff walk to Bryon Foust, a single by Pradere and eventual RBI single by Hanna to make it 5-2 but the Rogues couldn’t strike for more until Braden Stutzman supplied an RBI double to plate Lowrie in the eighth inning.

The Rogues had their opportunities against the Heat but simply couldn’t string together hits when it mattered most Saturday.

A leadoff double by Davis in the first went for naught when Connor Lowrie’s line drive was snared by second baseman Kyle Kramer and turned into an inning-ending double play. The Rogues also loaded the bases in the fifth inning with two outs but Lowrie was again denied when his grounder toward the hole was stopped by shortstop Daniel Schneemann and relayed to second base to halt Medford’s rally.

“Lowrie lined that one at the second baseman and he stung a ball to the shortstop there, if those get through it’s a different Game 2,” said Hogan. “If we don’t give away 16 free bases, it’s a completely different game, too. There’s a lot of what-ifs but that’s baseball, things happen you can’t control and we’ve just got to try and control what we can control and go out there and lay it all out on the field tomorrow.”

Falco and Schneemann each had three hits to pace Chico, with Falco scoring three times and Schneemann finishing with one run and one RBI.

For Medford, Pradere joined Cam Russ as the only Rogues to reach base three times, while Boone Casarez struck out five, walked two and allowed two hits and one run in three innings of relief pitching.

Chico;021;023;001;—;9;11;2

Medford;001;010;01x;—;3;6;2

Soroko and Helmstadter; Wilson, Duncan (6), Casarez (7) and Teel. W — Soroko (4-0). L — Wilson (7-2). 2B — C: Olson, Schneemann, Falco, Dragmire; M: Davis, Stutzman.

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

Medford starter D.J. Wilson delivers a pitch against the Chico Heat at Harry & David Field on Saturday. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.
Medford's Derron Davis slides in safely at second for a double behind Chico infielder Kyle Kramer at Harry & David Field on Saturday night. PHOTOS BY LARRY STAUTH JR.