For a foursome, Medford Rogues pitchers Reece Green, Kyle Robeniol, D.J. Wilson and Kade Wagner really couldn’t be much different.
And, yet, the quartet boast striking similarities when they take the mound for the collegiate wood-bat summer league team.
Bolstered by the four starting pitchers — each selected to Tuesday’s Great West League All-Star Game at Harry & David Field — the first-place Rogues have taken the GWL by storm with the top team ERA (2.77) and a 2.4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“Pitching, defense, quality at-bats and speed are the four things that we talk about,” says Rogues manager Josh Hogan. “Pitching is first on that list and that’s because it is the most important. We need them to throw strikes and fill up the zone and be able to pitch and not just throw and all four of those guys do that.”
The numbers most certainly prove that point. Check the GWL leaderboard and you won’t have to move far down any list to find the likes of Green, Robeniol, Wilson and Wagner.
Wilson leads the GWL in victories at 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA, with Green not far behind at 5-0 with a 1.08 ERA that ranks third in the GWL. Wagner ranks third in the GWL with 40 strikeouts and is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA that ranks sixth, just behind Robeniol’s 1.76 ERA to go with his 3-1 record and 34 strikeouts.
“It’s pretty special when you can just let them go out there and you know you’re going to get a quality start,” adds Hogan. “That’s all we ask for is just to give us a shot and, if we put up three runs in a ballgame, we know we’re going to be in the game with those guys.”
Wilson and Wagner are each in their second straight year with the Rogues and both have enjoyed a rise in the productivity throughout Medford’s starting rotation.
“I think what makes us successful is that we’re all strike throwers and we all have at last three maybe four pitches that we can throw for strikes,” says Wagner, a 22-year-old left-hander from Sterling College. “If you can control the zone you can control the game. The coaching staff here definitely stresses that we throw strikes because baseball is a tough game to get a lot of hits in.”
Another aspect that has helped the foursome turn fearsome to opponents is a supporting cast that may be the best fielding squad the Rogues have put forth since their introduction in 2013.
“I’ve gotta give all the credit to the defense that’s behind us,” says Wilson, a 22-year-old right-hander from Lane Community College. “Last year was a little bit different, we didn’t have as solid of a group, but I feel like all four of us pitchers are able to go out there and we trust that if the other team smacks the ball around the field a little bit our defense will be back there picking us up and helping us out.”
All modesty aside, what the All-Star honorees have accomplished thus far has been something special. The four pitchers average nearly seven innings per start — including two complete games by Wilson — in an almost unheard of statistic for one summer league pitcher much less a handful on the same team.
“I thought coming into summer ball it would be four or five innings for the starters,” says Robeniol, an 18-year-old left-hander from the University of Oregon, “but all of us have been doing good which is why we’re all going six to eight innings every time. It’s been an unbelievable start for all of us. Going seven or eight innings every time, that’s really hard to find nowadays.”
All four pitchers also credit the confidence in them provided by Hogan and the guidance by pitching coach Jeff Lyle as key ingredients to their summer success.
“Lyle’s a huge help,” says Green, a 21-year-old right-hander from Winthrop University. “I love being around him because he can just relax and hang out with all the guys and if you need help, he knows exactly what he’s talking about. He’s one of the smartest guys in baseball I’ve ever been around.”
Green is considered the jokester of the bunch, out to make sure everyone realizes baseball is a game and not a business. Robeniol is a little more focused on attacking the task at hand, while Wagner and Wilson carry more of an easy-going, laid-back approach to baseball.
Wagner stands steady as a rock on the mound regardless of the situation, and Wilson’s unorthodox release keeps batters off-balance. Robeniol may have the best stuff of the bunch despite his youth, while Green attacks batters with a no-nonsense approach.
“Each of their personalities is completely different but they all mesh together pretty well and that’s the awesome part,” says Hogan. “They all get it. They’re all competitors and they all want to win for the team and do whatever they can to make that happen. It’s special in summer groups when you can get all those pitchers and the team behind them to buy in for each other and that’s exactly what they’re doing. And because of it they’re winning and having fun.”
And no matter the player, those final traits are the ones that truly have made this summer one to remember for the Rogues’ starters.
“I’m having a blast here in Medford,” says Green. “I love all my teammates and it just amplifies the experience being around the group of guys I’m around. We just play for each other, we don’t think about ourselves when we’re doing it. It’s very rare that you have that kind of talent mixed with the kind of chemistry we have, and it just makes for something special.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry