Rogues show positive signs in opener
The weather was perfect, baseball fans of all ages milled about Harry & David Field and there were smiles aplenty here Thursday night.
All in all, not a bad opening night for the Medford Rogues, who kicked off their collegiate wood-bat summer slate with what developed into a nail-biter that saw the Rogues come oh-so-close in a 10-8 loss to the Seattle Studs.
“A lot of resiliency for the first game of the season, and that was really cool,” said third-year Rogues manager Bill Rowe of his season-opening impressions. “I think that our hitters had competitive at-bats the whole game and just kept responding. Every time the other team did something, we were ready and back at it.”
“Even when the score was 10-4,” he added, “the feeling in the dugout was that we were in good position to still win the game. Just to see that in the first game of the season from a group of guys who have never played together, it’s pretty exciting.”
The Rogues continue their three-game homestand against Seattle at 6:35 p.m. Friday, with tickets available for purchase at medfordrogues.com. A 10th anniversary fireworks show will follow the contest.
“Like I told the guys, we’re going to be on the other end of a lot of close games like that,” said Rowe. “Even when we give up 10, we’ll still find a way to win. We’ve just got to keep our heads up, go back and get some rest and we’ll be excited to play these guys again.”
Marking their 10th season here in the Rogue Valley, the Rogues opened a nine-week independent campaign — that includes 36 home dates overall — in catch-up mode after allowing four Studs runs in the bottom of the first inning on five hits and two wild pitches by starter Eamon Velarde.
Medford got a pair of runs back in the bottom of the first inning, with a leadoff walk to Mike LaVigne and single by Cole Arnold setting the table.
After a sacrifice bunt by Jude Hall advanced both runners, LaVigne came home on a balk by Seattle starter Anthony Brady. Grant Henry followed with a nice display of hitting that saw him cover the plate and pull an outside slider past the shortstop to make it 4-2.
After Velarde was able to sit the Studs down in order, the Rogues were able to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning with a pair of two-out runs. Drew Kaatz scored on a LaVigne single that plopped down just inside the right field line to make it 4-3. Arnold’s single to center field then put runners on the corners, and Hall beat out an infield single to the shortstop to bring home LaVigne and tie it at 4-all.
Seattle crept back with a go-ahead run in the fourth inning after right fielder Trey Nelson got caught in no man’s land between making a play on a low liner by Nate DeLaCruz or hanging back. The ball landed in front of Nelson for a single and squirted past him to allow DeLaCruz to reach third base. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Brady Hinkle.
A two-out triple by No. 9 hitter Payton Smith set up Landon Riker, who made it 6-4 on a hot shot that was knocked down by third baseman Kaatz but didn’t result in an out.
Seattle’s lead ballooned to 10-4 through 6 1/2 innings, highlighted by a two-run home run by Chris Schuchart in the sixth, before the Rogues began to turn the tide.
Hall ignited a three-run seventh inning for Medford, leading off the frame with a wild-pitch third strike that saw him hustle down the line to reach safely. Two stolen bases and a pair of walks drawn by Henry and Dylan Jester later, Logan Drummond plated a run with a fielder’s choice.
Trey Nelson added an RBI single and Tyler Peterson drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 10-7 with only one out gone in the seventh, but the Rogues were unable to draw closer thanks to a flyout and strikeout.
At that point, Medford had left 10 runners on base and six in scoring position by going 4-for-15 in those situations.
“We led off a couple innings with some really hard hit balls for outs, had a guy trip going from second to third and a few other things,” said Rowe, “but that’s baseball.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Hall turned a bunt single into a spot on second base after an error on the throw toward first base by Seattle reliever Jacob Bradley. Hall tacked on his third stolen base and, after walks to Henry and Jester loaded the bases, came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Drummond.
Still with a great chance to keep momentum going and potentially tie or take the lead, the Rogues saw their rally fizzle when Bradley recorded consecutive strikeouts.
In Medford’s last gasp, Peterson notched his second double of the night but again found getting to third base tricky as he was thrown out on a close play at third base following a wild pitch by Bradley.
Two ensuing groundouts sealed the win for Seattle, which overcame a combined 14 strikeouts by five Rogues pitchers. Jacob Liberta produced four of those strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief, while Velarde, Braeden Munger and Jack Erickson each had three strikeouts.
The Studs were able to outhit the Rogues 13-12, with Schuchart going 2-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs for Seattle.
“It’s different for each guy,” Rowe said of the give-and-take pitching effort. “Every pitcher we have is not coming off a season where they were used for a bunch of innings. Some guys had arm surgery in the beginning of the season and played for two months, some guys gave up a bunch of runs and weren’t used for the rest of the season. But they’re all guys who pitched well for us so we’ve just really got to go out and see what they have and go into the development part of what they need to do to improve and then we give them a plan on how to improve over the summer.”
Hall was 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI for Medford, which got two hits apiece from Arnold, Nelson and Peterson.
Brady, Moritz (4), Hale (7), Bradley (7) and Hinkle; Velarde, Gri. Henry (4), Munger (5), Erickson (6), Liberta (8) and Jester. W — Brady (1-0). L — Gri. Henry (0-1). 2B — S: Riker, Smith; M: Peterson 2. 3B — S: Smith. HR — S: Schuchart.
Have a local story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry