There were plenty of fireworks at Harry & David Field on Tuesday night, just not enough of them during the game for the Medford Rogues.
With the grandstands full for Red, White and Blue Night at Harry & David Field — featuring an entertaining postgame fireworks display — the Rogues couldn’t match that electricity as a lackluster showing for the first six innings put a damper on the baseball end in a 12-6 loss to the Klamath Falls Gems before a crowd of 2,447.
Tuesday’s attendance was the most for the Rogues (17-15) since it entered the Great West League in 2016.
“We’ve just got to get a better effort out of our starting pitching and we’ve got to make the plays,” said Rogues manager Tyler Graham, whose team committed four errors and walked five with two hit batters. “Right now we’re not doing either. It’s tough to win games when our starters aren’t going deep and we aren’t making the routine plays. We’ve got to clean up a few things in those departments and we should be good.”
The teams return to the field at 6:35 tonight at Kiger Stadium in Klamath Falls to continue the GWL series, making for a road trip and a quick turnaround for Medford to keep from potentially losing a third straight game.
“The kids just have to come out and compete harder,” added Graham. “If they come out and compete and play their tails off then we can be happy, but I don’t think we did that tonight so that’s something we definitely need to improve on.”
Klamath Falls (15-16) used two walks by starter Brandon Ross, a two-run double by Mike Hicks and a fielder’s choice RBI after an inning-ending double play attempt was denied to build a 3-0 cushion and never looked back in taking an eventual 9-1 lead by the fifth inning.
Ross had to be replaced by Chad Pike after giving up his fourth walk to lead off the third inning. The left-hander struck out the first batter he faced but struggled to rein things in after that, finishing with two strikeouts and two hits allowed with five runs — four earned — on his tally.
Medford native Cole Carder gave the home crowd something to be excited about with his leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning, but hits were few and far between after that against Klamath Falls starter Brooks Juhasz.
“I just got deep in the count and he threw a slider and it just kind of stayed up in the zone and I was able to put a good swing on it,” said Carder, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
It was the first home run of the summer for Carder, who starred at South Medford High and with the Medford Mustangs during his prep days.
“I’ve played a lot of games here and not a lot of balls go out to left,” said the center fielder, “so I was just praying and it went out so that was good to see.”
Things turned from bad to worse in the fifth inning when Klamath Falls tallied four runs on five hits off Pike to go up 9-1. Two errors kept the inning going against Pike, who allowed only one earned run in his 2? innings before Walker Brinkman came on in relief to get the final out of the frame.
“It felt like they were just getting little dinky hits after walks and there was nothing we could do about it,” said Carder. “We were just way behind from the start; it’s just hard to catch up when you’re down nine or 10 runs. At this level you can’t expect to come back from something like that.”
The Rogues finally showed some signs of life in the bottom of the seventh inning, with Tate Cowden drawing a walk in his first at-bat of the night to get things started against reliever Clay Westrobe. After a single by Robby Ahlstrom and a wild pitch, Carder came through with a sacrifice fly on a sliding grab by right fielder Skylar Vail to make it 10-2.
Riley Kasper then drew a walk for Medford and A.J. Miller ripped his first home run of the summer with a soaring shot over the right-field fence that trimmed the deficit to 10-5. Miller finished 2-for-4 with one run and three RBIs.
Tanner Cantwell ripped a double to left-center to keep momentum going for Medford, but Josh McIntyre’s third flyout of the night to center field allowed the Gems to escape the inning without further damage.
“When you get down by nine early, it’s tough,” said Graham. “There’s nothing really you can say to the hitters but just try to get them back one at a time. I like the way we competed (Sunday) when we came back (in a 6-5 loss to Chico) and the way we competed when we came back tonight, but we’ve got to do that all game.”
Klamath Falls tacked on a pair of insurance runs on RBIs by Jashaun Simon and Hicks to push its lead up to 12-5. Hicks finished with four RBIs for the Gems, while Medford native Travis Danielson scored twice and Phoenix’s James Turnbull was 1-for-4 with one run.
In the bottom of the ninth, Carder had a one-out single, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the final run on a groundout by Riley Kasper.
The Rogues managed eight hits against a trio of Gems pitchers, but only had one inning with more than one hit.
“We are far into the season,” said Carder, “but I think we’re still trying to pull ourselves together and be able to string things together with the lineup one through nine. But I think we’ve shown good signs of making that happen and being a really good team before this is all over.”
Graham remains confident as well.
“Baseball’s a weird game, when things are going good you can’t really explain it,” said Graham, fresh off his coaching run with Oregon State at the College World Series, “and when things are going bad you can’t really explain it. The one thing we ask all the kids to do is compete, and I think if every kid just worries about competing and doing something that can help the team win we’ll be in a lot better spot.”
Klamath Falls320 040120—12111
Juhasz, Westrobe (6), Buckson (8) and Owens; Ross, Pike (3), Brinkman (5), Carle (8) and Bell. W — Juhasz (3-2). L — Ross (0-1). 2B — KF: Hicks 2, Brass; M: Cantwell. HR — M: Carder (1), Miller (1).
-- Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry