Morton Lifts Gems to Win
By: Erik Oas
The 2014 season was not a banner year for the Gems, they struggled with pitching and situational hitting for most of the year but on the season’s final day they recorded one of their most dramatic victories, 11-10 over the Bend Elks.
Down to their final strike in the top of the ninth inning trailing 10-9 with two men on Dennis Morton smoked a double that landed right on the line in left field to bring in two runs and take the lead 11-10, and three outs later the win.
For much of the season the Gems pitching struggled, setting many West Coast League records along the way the pitching was no different tonight. Starter Kyle Detwiler struggled for the Gems laboring through five innings and being shelled for 14 hits and nine runs. Luckily for Detwiler the offense had his back.
The Gems scored the first runs of the game in the first inning when they plated two runs off starter Clay Bauer with only one hit, an infield bunt single by Thomas Walker, most of the damaging being done by walks and hit batters. The first inning would by no means be all the offense could muster. In a variant on a theme this year the Gems collected a big two out hit in the second inning. The inning began with the Gems loading the bases with nobody out; the next two batters grounded out and lined out bring in no runs. Kyle Dozier came up and split the outfielders in right center to clear the bases with a three RBI double giving the Gems a 4-3 lead.
That lead did not last long when the Elks struck back with runs in the second, third and fifth innings. But what may have been lost on the outing was a sensational performance turned in by the bullpen, Ryan Strombom, Michael Hirko and Kody Kuhlman combined to shut out the Elks the rest of the way, allowing the offense to chip away.
The offense that chipped away was mainly Dennis Morton. Morton came into the final game of the season slumping, but awoke just in time to drive the Gems to a sorely needed win. Morton collected three hits one of which was a double to lead off the eighth inning. He would later score on a Kyle Dozier sacrifice fly, Dozier’s fifth RBI of the night, making it a 10-9 game headed to the ninth.
In the ninth the Gems got the first two men on due to back to back errors committed by the Elks infield. Two batters latter Steven Packard singled into right, Alec Freedmen tested the arm of right fielder Zach Close and out by two feet at home. Down to their final strike Morton doubled down the left field line to knock in two and give the Gems an 11-10 lead that would be preserved by Kuhlman in the ninth.
The win proved to be very important symbolically for the Gems when they learned on the bus ride down that the Kelowna Falcons has lost their last game of the year effectively knocking the Gems out of the cellar and giving Kelowna the dubious distinction of turning in the worst record of the 2014 season.
When the Gems learned of the loss by Kelowna the bus erupted in cheers, knowing that a win on the last day kept them out of dead last. The win also gave the Gems the series from Bend a team that is headed to the playoffs.
The Elks begin their playoff matchup on Tuesday at Vince Genna Stadium against the Southern Division champion Corvallis Knights. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35PM.