RiverDogs find needed spark

The Southern Oregon RiverDogs were in desperate need of some positive momentum Saturday in an amateur baseball doubleheader.

They got it at the expense of the Humboldt Steelheads.

The RiverDogs (17-10), playing without two of their top hitters, were one-hit in a lackluster 1-0 loss in the opener at Harry & David Field — their fourth straight loss — but took advantage of five Steelhead errors to resuscitate their offense and salvage a split by winning the nightcap 5-0.

"It's kind of like when there's a little prick of blood with a shark," Southern Oregon coach Chris Wolf said. "You have to jump on that and take advantage of that."

Southern Oregon certainly did, scoring its first run of the doubleheader in the third inning when center fielder Caleb Tommasini reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and scored on consecutive throwing errors — the first by the pitcher on a pickoff attempt and the second by the center fielder as he rounded third.

The RiverDogs added four in the fourth in support of stellar starting pitcher Josh Suarez, who led off the inning with a grounder that took a wicked hop near first base and allowed Suarez to reach second.

Suarez went to third on an errant throw by the catcher on an attempted pickoff and scored on an error at shortstop. Humboldt starter Justin Dixon walked consecutive batters to load the bases and Tommasini followed with an RBI single and Travis Wolf hit a two-RBI single to cap the scoring.

"It just seems like once you get one guy on, it sparks something, even if they get on on an error," Travis Wolf said. "You just need a little something to get you going."

Suarez earned his sixth victory of the season in pitching all seven innings, allowing just five hits, and striking out seven. He displayed great command, inducing 10 groundouts, while Southern Oregon played error-free defense behind him.

The RiverDogs spoiled a solid effort from starter Shawn Freeman in Game 1. Southern Oregon managed just one hit on a one-out single in the fifth. In that inning, the RiverDogs loaded the bases with one out but were unable to push across a run as Humboldt pitcher Zach Carper escaped unscathed.

Carper, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder who throws primarily changeups and curveballs, worked seven innings, allowing one hit, striking out five and walking three.

"He throws a lot of junk," coach Wolf said. "We told the hitters to move up in the box but no one really did. Normally, we are a good hitting ballclub. It's frustrating."

The RiverDogs' lineup was without the services of leadoff man and center fielder Patrick Allen, who is out for the season with a nagging shoulder injury. Third baseman and No. 3-hitter Tyson Nelson is also done for the summer with a back injury.

"It definitely is a downer," Suarez said of the injuries. "It showed in that first game. But our team definitely has a lot of guys who can come from that backup spot and fill the position."

Freeman was the tough-luck loser in Game 1, surrendering six hits, striking out four and walking two in his fourth loss of the season.

The Steelheads hit the ball hard, recording three doubles, but were unable to string hits together. Humboldt managed just one run, thanks to a leadoff double by catcher Steve Morgan, who reached third on the play after a throwing error by left fielder Adam Ehlers. Morgan later scored on a fielder's choice.

"It gets to you a little bit," Freeman said of the lack of run support, "but you've just got to keep your team right there."

The two teams return today at Harry & David Field for a nine-inning game at 11 a.m.

FIRST GAME

Humboldt 010 000 0 — 1 6 1

Southern Oregon 000 000 0 — 0 1 2

Carper and S. Morgan; Freeman and Comford. W — Carper (3-1). L — Freeman (2-4). 2B — H: S. Morgan, Manzi, B. Morgan.

SECOND GAME

Humboldt 000 000 0 — 0 5 5

Southern Oregon 001 400 x — 5 6 0

Dixon and B. Morgan; Suarez and Garcia. W — Suarez (6-1). L — Dixon. 2B — SO: Suarez.

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

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