Having an unwelcome pitching hiatus left Tyler Burch chomping at the bit to get back on the mound Tuesday, and the right-hander made quick work of the visiting Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox in his Great West League debut for the Medford Rogues at Harry & David Field.
Burch pounded the strike zone and kept Yuba-Sutter off balance for the most part in six solid innings, allowing one run and five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks to set the tone for an eventual 4-1 win by the Rogues that lasted only 2 hours, 7 minutes.
Left-handed reliever Chase Spinning pitched three innings of scoreless relief to earn his first save for Medford (7-6) in front of a crowd of 1,104. Spinning still has not allowed an earned run in 12 innings this summer.
Game 2 of the three-game series is at 6:35 tonight at Harry & David Field.
“I had about two weeks of rest after the NAIA World Series that we host in Lewiston, Idaho,” said Burch, “and it just feels good to get out there and compete again.”
“It was awesome,” added the Lewis-Clark State College product of his introduction to Medford. “The crowd was amazing, this team is amazing, it felt really good going out there today. I’m pretty excited for what we can do this summer.”
Burch went 10-2 with a 2.87 ERA this past season for the Warriors, who went 40-13 and lost in the semifinals of the NAIA World Series to finish fourth in the final standings. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder got into a little trouble in the second and third innings with two runners reaching base each time, but came up with big pitches each time to keep the Gold Sox (3-8) at bay.
“Tyler comes right out with a hard fastball and a really good slider and I just thought he did a really good job of challenging hitters and coming right at them all day long,” said Rogues assistant coach Danny Sales, who is taking the reins with manager Tyler Graham still coaching at Oregon State. “He didn’t really try to nibble or anything, he was just saying here it is and come hit it.”
“We had him on a pitch count tonight,” added the coach. “I felt like he could’ve gone another couple and he said, ‘I feel really strong right now, I can finish it.’ I go, ‘I know you can but we’re going to need you all summer.’ I thought he definitely got stronger as the game went on.”
Yuba-Sutter catcher Jacob Terao got him for a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning after hitting the left field wall just shy of that same spot in the second for Burch’s lone big hits allowed on the night.
“Going out there and focusing on the next pitch was the biggest thing for me and erasing what happened,” said Burch, who hails from East Wenatchee, Washington. “I gave up a home run and I just erased that instantly, and that’s part of my success, just continuing to move forward.”
Well, he didn’t erase it entirely. Terao’s home run served as motivation from that point on, with Burch notching six of his strikeouts after the blast, including one of Terao to end his outing in the sixth.
“It got me fired up a little bit because I hold myself to a high standard and I just want to go out there and compete every day,” said Burch of the homer.
As Burch’s teammate with the Warriors, Tuesday’s production was no surprise to Rogues first baseman Kody Garvin.
“Tyler’s been great for us all year up at (Lewis-Clark State College) and is just continuing to do what I expect out of that guy,” said Garvin, who was 1-for-4 with one RBI. “He’s a grinder on the mound and he’s going to give you his best effort every day. It’s great to have a team guy like him.”
Garvin gave his teammate a lead with an RBI groundout to second base in the third inning that scored Riley Way, who led off the inning with a triple. Former South Medford and Medford Mustangs standout Cole Carder made it 2-0 in the third when he scored on a wild pitch by Gold Sox starter Nick Ultsch, who also worked quickly and efficiently to help shorten the game time.
“Hats off to their pitcher, he was working quick and kept us on our toes,” said Garvin, “but we had some guys grind out some (at-bats) and we had some good team (at-bats), even just hitting soft groundballs to second base or whatever it may be to get those runs across. We knew those runs were going to be important with how close the game was.”
Medford caught a break in the top of the eighth inning after a wide throw by Way at shortstop pulled Garvin off the bag with two outs. Darrel Doll then followed with a well-hit ball to right-center that hopped over the fence for a ground-rule double, which kept the Gold Sox from scoring the tying run from first base on a play when he easily would have scored otherwise.
“That was pretty big,” said Sales. “I think that’s the baseball gods, we must have done something right.”
Pitching coach Anthony Balderas then went out to discuss strategy with Spinning as he was set to face Terao, but that advice went somewhat out the window in gametime pressure. Instead of shying away from the hot hitter, Spinning went right after him for his third strikeout on a 3-2 count.
Overall, Medford pitchers had 12 strikeouts against Yuba-Sutter.
“(Spinning) challenged him and that wasn’t the plan, but it worked,” Sales said with a wry smile. “We’ll talk to him about that. There were some fastballs that I puckered up a little bit for. Strike three was middle-in and that’s the pitch he hit out so I’m not sure what happened there but, like I said, the baseball gods were looking down on us.”
Medford tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth as right fielder Brandon Bena reached on an error and scored on an error, and A.J. Miller brought home Cole Elvis, who had walked, with a sacrifice fly.
Kasper and Tommy Ahlstrom each went 2-for-4 for the Rogues, while Terao finished 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI for the Gold Sox.
Ultsch, Mora (8), Saller (8) and Terao; Burch, Spinning (7) and Elvis. W — Burch (1-0). L — Ultsch (0-3). S — Spinning (1). 2B — YS: Promes, Doll. 3B — M: Way. HR — YS: Terao (3).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry