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Southern Oregon RiverDawgs starting pitcher Jeremy Cheney throws in the second inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Butte Sabres on Saturday at Harry & David Field. - Jamie Lusch

RiverDawgs start strong

As far as season openers go, things couldn't have gone much better for the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs in Saturday night's doubleheader at Harry & David Field.

Aside from one small hiccup in the seventh inning of Game 2 against the Butte Sabres, the RiverDawgs were almost flawless in securing the sweep with 10-0 and 10-4 victories.

"Tonight was a great start to the season," said RiverDawgs first baseman Allen Smith. "We pitched well and played good defense, and if you do that and mix in some hits that's a good recipe for success."

The blend was especially right in the opener, with Southern Oregon (2-0) limiting the Sabres of Chico, Calif., to only two hits behind the pitching of Jeremy Cheney, Josh Camp and Jon Flinn.

To ensure each pitcher saw action Saturday, RiverDawgs manager Chris Wolf had two pitchers throw three innings apiece and a third finish off the seventh inning. And if Saturday's performance is any hint of what Southern Oregon fans can expect for the summer season, they're in for a real treat.

Cheney allowed one hit with three strikeouts in his three innings, then gave way to Camp, who also struck out three in his three innings. Flinn allowed a leadoff hit in the second but faced only three batters thanks to a second perfectly turned double play by shortstop Johnny Omahen and second baseman Travis Wolf.

"I'm so excited right now to have them all working together like they were," said Chris Wolf of his team. "They're a great bunch of young men. They leave it out on the field."

Nowhere was that more evident than in the play of Smith, who played for the 'Dawgs two years ago and is making his return to baseball after a full year layoff. He spent this past season serving as a coach at Abilene Christian.

"I had a little anxiety before the game because it was the first time in a while for me," said the former South Medford High standout.

Smith showed absolutely no rust in his first games back, going 3-for-4 with one run and two RBIs in the opener and 3-for-4 with two runs in the nightcap. He also stole two bases and alertly advanced on every occasion, catching the Sabres off guard in the sixth inning of Game 1 by scoring a second run after a routine fielder's choice by Travis Wolf.

"I think we've got a good group of guys," added Smith. "This is only my first time around them but the level of ball is pretty good. We've got some guys from out of the area and some local guys that can play good so we'll see how it goes."

A trio of California State San Marcos players also made quite an impression Saturday, with Omahen silky smooth at shortstop to go with a three-hit, three-run performance in the twin bill. Teammates Austin Coleman finished 3-for-6 with four runs and two RBIs and pitcher Chris Skaalen sat the Sabres down in order in all three of his innings, with four strikeouts, to start the nightcap.

Catcher Aaron Hassal was 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs in Game 1 in his RiverDawg debut, while fellow newcomer Eric Walk was 4-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs in Game 2.

Returner Steve Candelaria had a pair of nifty defensive plays at third base in the opener and tripled and scored three times in the nightcap. Another second-year player, pitcher Shawn Freeman, allowed one hit in three scoreless innings in Game 2 and finished with five strikeouts.

Former Phoenix High standout Dustin Smith got the Game 2 start at second base and responded with a 2-for-3 effort that included a two-run single in the fifth and an RBI single in the fourth.

Southern Oregon took a 10-0 lead into the top of the seventh of Game 2 before Butte greeted reliever Josh Zelecki with four of its five hits in the nightcap. Dan Headley had an RBI double, two runs scored on a throwing error by catcher Bret Reordan and Pete Santero added an RBI single before the right-handed submarine-style pitcher struck out Matt Brashers to end the game.

The RiverDawgs, who are still awaiting the arrival of a few more players, return to Harry & David Field next Saturday with a 5 p.m. doubleheader against the Humboldt Steelheads.

FIRST GAME

Butte Sabres 000 000 0 — 0 2 2

So. Oregon RiverDawgs 041 104 x — 10 11 1

Henman and Parsons; Cheney, Camp (4), Flinn (7) and Hassal. W — Cheney (1-0). L — Henman. 2B — SO: A. Smith. 3B — SO: Coleman.

SECOND GAME

Butte Sabres 000 000 4 — 4 5 2

So. Oregon RiverDawgs 010 144 x — 10 12 1

Tradd, Brashers (6) and Headley; Skaalen, Freeman (4), Zelecki (7) and Reordan. W — Skaalen (1-0). L — Tradd. 2B — B: Headley; SO: Walk 2, A. Smith. 3B — SO: Candelaria, Walk.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

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