Tuesday’s game won’t go down as one of the most memorable in Medford Rogues history — unless you’re shortstop Chad Pike — but the end result was all that mattered here against the Klamath Falls Gems at Harry & David Field.
The Rogues used two scoring innings, highlighted by Pike’s first home run of the summer in the seventh, to slip by Klamath Falls for a 5-2 win in Great West League play in front of a crowd of 834. The contest lasted only 2 hours, 2 minutes.
“To start the game off we weren’t really executing the opportunities that we had,” said Medford catcher Cole Elvis, “but when it came down to it, we did our jobs and came up clutch. We battled and that’s all we can do.”
Medford remained third in the GWL standings behind Chico and Lincoln with the victory, and the Rogues (11-7) have now won five of their last six games. Game 2 of the series is at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, with Klamath Falls (6-13) hosting the third game on Thursday.
“I feel like we’re connected pretty good now,” added Elvis, who was 1-for-3 with a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth inning. “We’re playing together, everyone knows each other now and we like each other and we’re having fun.”
All good vibes aside, Tuesday’s outing was far from a dominant one for Medford, which committed three errors and was sat down in order in five innings.
“It definitely wasn’t a clean game, which obviously is what we’d like, but we got the job done,” said Rogues assistant coach Danny Sales, who remains at the helm until manager Tyler Graham returns from his Oregon State duties at the College World Series. “We’ve got to get going a little bit earlier and have a little better approaches and jump on them. You’ve got to tip your hat to (Gems starter Brooks Juhazs), he kept the ball down with some offspeed.”
Klamath Falls struck first, in the top of the fourth inning, when Tim Frith singled with one out and Kyle Harvey drew a walk to follow and Jack Owens singled. On a slow grounder, Rogues second baseman Tate Cowden attempted to turn an unassisted double play but, after tagging Owens, the ball slipped out of his grip on the exchange and kept him from completing the play as Frith scored from third.
After stranding two runners in scoring position in the fourth inning with three straight groundouts, Medford finally broke through in the sixth after Cole Carder secured his second single of the game with one out and was followed by a walk to Kody Garvin and single by Josh McIntyre to load the bases. After a sacrifice fly by Brandon Bena tied the game at 1-all, Elvis came through with a chopper up the middle to plate two runs before he was tagged out trying to stretch to second base.
“I was slowing it down a little bit because I knew he was throwing me a ton of junk,” Elvis said of his batting approach. “I was sitting on it and it came into me.”
The Gems trimmed their deficit to 3-2 on singles by Michael Hicks and Jashuan Simon in the seventh inning but, as they have done most of the summer, the Rogues were quick to answer in the bottom of the frame.
After Tanner Cantwell supplied a first-pitch, pinch-hit single to right field, Medford looked to be wasting no time with a deep fly ball to left field by Tommy Ahlstrom that fell prey to the only wind of the night and was caught on the warning track. With two outs, Pike made sure the moment wasn’t lost when he came up clutch from the No. 9 hole with a two-run home run that just got over the right field fence for his first round-tripper of the summer and a 5-2 lead.
“He’s done a good job for us,” said Sales, noting Pike has played shortstop, second base and third base so far defensively. “He’s been pretty sturdy in the middle and he came up with a pretty big hit there. I don’t know how many career home runs he has but it can’t be too many so good for him.”
Pike was quick to defend himself that it was lifetime home run No. 13 but, when pressed, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder admitted only six of those came in high school and that was the first post-graduate blast for the Watermill, New York, product.
“I’m trying to just do whatever my team needs from me,” said Pike. “I got a pitch that I was able to handle and was able to drive it and really give my team an extra cushion that we needed. It wasn’t a great day for the whole team, including myself, but I’m just trying to do what’s best for everyone.”
When he sent the ball soaring toward the right field fence, the switch-hitting Pike was instantly struck by how far Gems right fielder Troy Simpkins seemed to be running to track his fly ball but he wasn’t willing to ease up his running stride until he saw the ball carom back into play off the second tier of the wall and was safely at second base.
“I wasn’t going to take any chances,” said the 19-year-old. “Having that ball fall and then seeing them signal home run, that’s when I knew.”
It was sweet redemption for Pike, who was one of the infielders tagged with an error on Tuesday when he couldn’t hold onto a relay from newly inserted second baseman Riley Way in the top of the seventh.
“Our pitchers really picked us up tonight,” said Pike. “We made three errors in the middle infield and the pitchers really beared down in those innings and picked us up. Hopefully tomorrow we go and pick them up and make some plays for them.”
Chase Spinning earned the victory in relief of Tyler Burch, who allowed one run and three hits in six innings with six strikeouts and three walks. Spinning allowed one run in two innings with two hits and one strikeout, while Gabe Smith and Robby Ahlstrom came in to pitch one scoreless inning to seal the triumph.
Carder went 2-for-4 with one run as Medford’s lone multiple hitter.
Juhazs, Foster (7) and Owens; Burch, Spinning (6), Smith (8), R. Ahlstrom (9) and Elvis. W — Spinning (1-0). L — Juhazs (1-2). S — R. Ahlstrom (2). 2B — M: Garvin. HR — M: Pike (1).