Dirtbags: Rural Baseball Retakes the Lead Twice to Fend Off the Indians Upset Bid in Winlock Tuesday
WINLOCK — Mekhi Morlin’s clutch hitting kept Rural Baseball Inc. in it and held Toledo at bay during the Dirtbags’ 14-8 victory in non-league Senior Legion action Tuesday at Winlock High School.
The Dirtbags fell behind twice — in the second and fourth innings — and rallied back both times to stymie a Toledo squad playing its fourth game of the season. Rural Baseball coach Jordan Nailon praised Morlin, who finished 1-for-3 with five RBIs and two runs, for helping fuel the Dirtbags offensive attack.
“Big hits by that guy,” Nailon said. “He gets the barrel on the baseball. That was the thing we were focusing on; when they give us an opportunity, make them pay for their mistakes. He helped us out with those big hits today.”
Luke Roth came in for relief in the sixth and was credited with the win. Roth threw three scoreless innings, striking out one while allowing one hit and zero earned runs.
It was just the third game of the season for Toledo, a young squad playing a split schedule through a Babe Ruth league in Chehalis. The Indians have 20 games on tap this summer, a mix of varsity and junior varsity. The team is a mix of varsity and junior varsity players, with about five kids who are 16-17 years old and the rest are 14-15 years old.
First-year Toledo varsity baseball coach Bill Waag is trying to get these kids experience after losing their spring season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would love to win but right now we’re just looking at development,” Waag said. “Every situation we can get in, if we make a mistake, we’re learning from it. That’s the situation we’re in this summer.”
Waag is trying to develop and rejuvenate a program over the next couple years that’s seen a downturn in recent seasons. The Indians are coming off a 4-16 varsity season last year and Waag is even looking to bring up some 13 year olds to get some crucial playing time this summer against older, more experienced competition.
“We’ve got some young kids who are hungry and like to play baseball,” Waag said. “I wanted to give them the opportunity to do that, so we built an independent schedule.”
Waag’s team showed some early-season rust, which is expected during the third game of the year and having only three team practices under its belt before the first game. A large portion of Rural Baseball’s runs came on passed balls and defensive miscues by Toledo, but the Indians showed promise offensively.
Toledo got on the board first in the top of the second when Rogan Stanley drove in Carson Gould with an RBI groundout. The Dirtbags answered back in the third inning with the bases loaded when Morlin knocked a deep ball to centerfield that was dropped and cleared the bases. Morlin later scored on a botched pickoff attempt to make it 4-1.
The Indians were far from done. Stanley’s two-run single sparked a five-run fourth-inning for the Indians. Kaven Winters’ walk scored Carson Olmstead, and Ryan Bloomstrom’s two-run double brought in two more runs to give Toledo its final lead of the game at 6-4.
“I just came in feeling hot,” said Bloomstrom, who led the Indians with two hits and three RBIs on the day. “I needed a game and this was my first hit of the season.”
Morlin again came up big in the fifth, bashing a two-run single that drove in Chase Staup and Ben Woodrum, followed by Kaden Harrington’s RBI single that gave the Dirtbags the lead again at 7-6.
Toledo struck back once again, notching two more runs in the sixth, starting with a wild pitch that scored Caiden Schultz and Bloomstrom’s RBI single that scored Mason Miller to help the Indians retake the lead at 8-7.
But Rural Baseball would explode for a five-run sixth frame to recapture the lead for good.
The Dirtbags loaded the bases for Staup, who walked in a run to tie it up, then Jesse Towns and Jackson Hull each scored from third on consecutive wild pitches to regain the lead at 9-8. Staup scored from third on a dropped third strike and Woodrum made it home on another wild pitch by Toledo to make it 12-8.
The Dirtbags tacked on the final two runs of the game in the seventh when Harrington and Ty Thompson each scored on wild pitches to bring the score to 14-8.
Nailon said the main focus of this game was to not fall asleep during the middle innings of a nine-inning game, which his team has been prone to do, and he was proud of his players for keeping their heads in the game for the duration of the match. It allowed the Dirtbags to take advantage of Toledo’s mistakes.
“Thought we had some good approaches up there, made their pitchers throw a lot of pitches and got into their bullpen a little bit,” Nailon said. “Any time you can do that your chances of success are going to go up.”
Nailon was impressed with Kyuss Mano, who started on the mound for the Dirtbags in just his second appearance this season. Mano went 3 ½ innings with three strikeouts and four walks.
“He did a good job of challenging hitters,” Nailon said. “Still working on getting his secondary stuff to work, but I really liked his bulldog mentality out there.”
Staup, who played right field and second base, went 2-for-3 with three runs, two walks and a double for the Dirtbags. JC Workman went 1-for-1 with a single and a run. Towns drew three walks and scored once, while Mano tallied two hits.
For Toledo, Stanley went 1-3 with three RBIs and a run scored. Kaden Sellars notched a single, a run and walked once, while throwing 1 ⅓ innings of relief with one strikeout, three walks and one earned run. Bloomstrom started on the mound and tossed three innings with two strikeouts and a walk.
The Indians next host the Eagles of Chehalis at 5 p.m., Thursday, at Toledo High School in a seven-inning match.
Rural Baseball travels to Longview to face Lower Columbia Legion at 4 p.m., Thursday, at R.A. Long High School.