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Rogues aim to repeat GWL success

When it comes to collegiate summer baseball, it’s difficult to build off the previous season due to tremendous roster turnover year after year.

Still, the basic tenets that led the Medford Rogues to a runner-up finish in the inaugural season of the Great West League following a league-best 40 wins in the regular season stand to be on display yet again this summer at Harry & David Field.

“Honestly, we’re just trying to emulate last year’s team,” said fifth-year Rogues manager Josh Hogan of this year’s expected roster. “That fit my style of coaching and what I have found over the years that I work best with: pitching, defense and speed.”

“Speed was a big part for us offensively last year — I know we stole over 100 bases (111 overall) — so we’re looking to do that again with a lineup of guys who can run the bases and get that extra bag and really push quality at-bats together,” he added. “I don’t need the home runs, even though we have a few guys that can do that this summer, I just want to put as much pressure on the defense as we can.”

Rogues fans will get their first taste of what that may look like as the season progresses beginning at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday when Medford plays host to Yuba City in a season-opening three-game series at Harry & David Field.

The Rogues, who as usual won’t have their full assortment of roster options for a few weeks while players wrap up their college years, will continue their homestand with a Friday-Sunday set against the Chico Heat in a rematch of last year’s GWL championship series.

Medford finished 40-17 in the regular season last year, dropping five of those games in the final week due to player attrition at the end of the summer, to finish six games ahead of late-surging Chico. In the best-of-three GWL Championship Series, the teams split the first two games before the Heat secured a deciding 1-0 triumph in an impressive pitcher’s duel that saw former Crater High standout Dylan Pearce strike out five and scatter four hits with one walk in eight-plus innings.

“We were just short-handed there in the end, losing 1-0 like that with pitchers hitting in the lineup,” said Hogan. “But that also gives us something to shoot for this year. I know the returners really want that (championship) ring because it’s like kissing your sister when you win the league by six games and then lose 1-0 in the championship.”

Those returners provide a key reason for optimism again this summer.

Besides Pearce, who has already committed to play next season at Oregon State, the Rogues return an anchor in the rotation in D.J. Wilson to go with the likes of Chris Painter, Malik Evans and Jamie Flynn. Wilson was 7-1 with a 2.70 ERA last year to earn second-team all-GWL recognition, while Pearce was 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA in the regular season and was an honorable mention selection.

In the regular lineup, returning first baseman Johnny DeLaCruz was a second-team all-GWL pick after hitting .279 with 24 runs and 25 RBIs and catcher/infielder Braden Stutzman (.192, 18 runs, 17 RBIs) received an honorable mention nod. Other key returners include right fielder/relief pitcher Connor Lowrie (.228, 24 runs, 28 RBIs) and third baseman Jayden Hanna (.256, seven runs, seven RBIs), who was a late-season addition in 2016.

“I’m really excited about the guys we have coming back,” said Hogan. “I think we have the most returners that we’ve ever had.”

Hogan said he’s also pleased with the number of local players who will be part of this year’s roster for the first time. Pitchers Jordan Ragan (Medford), Brennen Lauffenburger (Grants Pass), Peyton Fuller (Ashland) and Ryan Carle (Medford) will be joined by infielder Josh Berman (Medford) in giving the Rogues the most Rogue Valley players they’ve had on the roster since the team’s debut campaign in 2013.

“There’s a lot of good local talent here but most of the time it seems like they’ve always gone somewhere else to play,” said Hogan, “so we feel very fortunate that we have so many talented guys from the Medford area and in the Rogue Valley with us this year.”

A few of the other key players expected this summer include infielder Davis Delorefice (Utah), catchers Alex Isola (Utah) and Eric Yang (UC-Santa Barbara) and pitcher Jaiden France (San Jose State).

“It will be our fifth year and I think it will be another special group, at least that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Hogan, whose staff will again include pitching coach Jeff Lyle to go with assistant coach Christian Cornado. “I think the pieces may be in place for it but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We’ve still got to put the work in, and I think they’ll all be ready to do that.”

New for this Great West League season will be the inclusion of the Yuba City Bears and Lincoln Potters, who will take the place of the departed Lodi Crushers and Sacramento Stealth in the six-team collegiate wood-bat league.

Single-game ticket prices are $12 for the reserved Strike Zone seating, $10 for reserved Hilts Family seating, $9 for general admission bleacher seating and $7 for general admission grass berm seating. Season ticket packages are also available.

Acting General Manager Carolyn Birch returns for her second season in charge of the Rogues and has a variety of theme nights and in-game activities again planned throughout the summer, with Freddy Sandoval joining the team for the first year as Director of Baseball Development.

For more information, go to medfordrogues.com, call 541-973-2883 or email info@medfordrogues.com

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