For Rogues, it was a season to remember
The record book is going to need some offseason revisions and a special spot may need to be carved out in the main office for the Medford Rogues at Harry & David Field.
All in all, yes, it was a pretty good summer for the collegiate wood-bat baseball team.
Now they just need to hire a general manager to replace acting GM Carolyn Birch, whose work visa expired prior to the end of the regular season, and provide some much-needed shade for fans at the ballpark to eventually go with an enhanced concession stand and paved parking lots.
But that’s the future, what the Rogues have in the present is a fan base that ranked third in the Great West League with an average home attendance of 1,200 that may grow should some of the aforementioned amenities come into play for 2018.
They also have their first GWL Championship Series trophy after sweeping the Chico Heat in a best-of-three series that included a 5-3 win on Friday and 7-2 clinching win Saturday. The same teams made it to the title series in 2016 but it was Chico finishing on top in a tight three-game series.
“It was awesome,” said returning Rogues pitcher Dylan Pearce of avenging last year’s outcome. “It was really great to end the special season that we had on the highest note we could get.”
Pearce was the winning pitcher in Saturday’s finale and said the players celebrated on into the night with each other at a team gathering that also served as a farewell to players who had to get back and prepare for their college seasons on Sunday.
Pearce said the signs were there early on in the season that the Rogues could do something special this summer, and a lot of that credit belonged to Medford manager Josh Hogan and assistant coaches Jeff Lyle and Christian Coronado for filling the roster with so many guys willing to work hard for a common goal.
“There’s nothing like them,” said Pearce, who was 5-0 in the regular season with a 3.75 ERA, of his teammates. “These guys are absolutely unreal. I’m honored to be on a team with this select group of guys. Coach hogan really knows how to pick quality players. One thing that’s most shocking is some of these guys aren’t even in college yet or are just back from their first year of college and they’re out there grinding every single day.”
“It was just awesome to see these guys all summer,” he added, “knowing everybody was tired and beat up but they still performed and just keep getting better and better on the field.”
In its fifth season, Medford equaled a club record in victories and used a record-tying seven-game winning streak from July 20-28 to pull away for a second straight GWL regular-season title. In the league’s two years, only Medford has reached the 40-win plateau during the regular season, going 40-20 this year (44-21 overall) and 40-17 in 2016 (41-19 overall).
Most of the team records set this summer came on the offensive end as the Rogues batted a club-best .302 overall — second only to Lincoln’s .303 team average — with 448 runs (two behind Lincoln), 638 hits (eight behind Lincoln), 112 doubles (15 behind Lincoln), 17 triples (11 behind Chico), 26 home runs (23 behind Portland) and 862 total bases (55 behind Lincoln).
In the Rogues’ high-water game of the season they had a record 20 hits and 19 runs with a nine-run seventh inning in a 19-5 triumph over Yuba City on July 20.
If there was a drawback, it was on the defensive end. Despite several outstanding plays this summer, the Rogues still committed the most errors in club history (116) one year after finishing with its fewest ever (71 in 2015). Only Yuba City had more errors with 148.
In terms of individual Rogues records, Clay Valenzuela-Reece put his name atop the list in three categories in his first season with the ballclub in terms of at-bats (216), hits (76) and, most impressively, his 18-game hitting streak that eclipsed a mark of 15 that had been set by Nathan Etheridge and Billy Fredrick in 2015.
Overall, Valenzuela-Reece finished fourth in GWL batting with a.352 average to go with 50 runs and 26 RBIs.
Fellow infielder Davis Delorefice and returning Rogues center fielder Connor Lowrie also posted multiple regular-season records, with Delorefice’s 54 runs scored besting the old record of 40 set by Derron Davis in 2016. Delorefice and Lowrie each tied the club record of four triples set by Spencer Steer last summer, and Lowrie set the new standard in games played (56) and strikeouts (46).
Rogues returning first baseman Johnny DeLaCruz tied the record for most sacrifice flies (5) and finished fifth in GWL batting at .346 with 41 runs and 48 RBIs. He also batted .435 in Medford’s five playoff games to help spark the offense.
Few players had as big of an overall impact on the Rogues season as catcher Alex Isola, whose defensive prowess was regularly singled out by Hogan and his offensive exploits were undeniable. Isola, who was named the GWL’s top position prospect at its All-Star Game, established a new team record with 58 RBIs in the regular season to easily eclipse the old record of 36 set in 2015 by Dan Mayer.
For the season, Isola ranked eighth in the GWL with a .337 batting average to go with 44 runs, 15 doubles and seven home runs. In the playoffs, no one was better at the plate as Isola batted .588 with nine runs, two homers and five RBIs despite being walked seven times.
Scotty Wright may have supplied the biggest surprise in Rogues history this summer, tossing a seven-inning perfect game — the first in team and GWL history — in his first pitching start with 14 strikeouts in a 5-0 win at the Lincoln Potters on July 29. The no-hitter by the converted infielder was also a first in Rogues history and his 14 strikeouts surpassed the record of 11 set by Mac Acker in 2013.
In other individual pitching bests, former Sheldon High standout Taylor Frost set a team record with eight saves — two better than Shane Quarterly’s mark in 2014 — while ex-Phoenix High star Aaron Hutchinson made the most appearances by a pitcher in the regular season (23) and Jaiden France made the most starting appearances (10).
It wasn’t a record but it also bears noting that right fielder Jake Hellweg, who had some of the more eye-popping defensive plays to save runs this summer, stepped up in the playoffs by batting .478 with six runs and six RBIs with two homers and two doubles. Also, designated hitter Dante Gutierrez came through with a team-best 10 RBIs to help Medford go 4-1 in the playoffs, while returning pitcher D.J. Wilson had a 1.50 ERA in four appearances that covered six innings overall.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry