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BY STEVE BRANDON/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Medford sweeps series at Walker Stadium, defeating tired Portland team 12-4 in finale; key stretch of games for Pickles starts Friday at home

The Portland Pickles probably will be happy to welcome the Marysville Gold Sox to Walker Stadium on Friday.

At this point, they might happy to see anyone in the Great West League but Medford.

No tears were shed when the first-place Rogues departed Wednesday night, after completing a three-game sweep in Portland with a 12-4 victory.DILLON

The Pickles finished 1-5 in six games this past week, three in Medford, against the Rogues.

The Rogues doubled the Pickles in hits in the finale, 12-6, before a crowd of 807 at Lents Park.

It was the 11th game in nine days for the Pickles, who played doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday, facing the touring Perth Heat from Australia in 1 p.m. games before taking on Medford.

The Pickles will get a day off on Thursday, before the start of a three-game home series with Marysville at 7 p.m. Friday.

"I hope they sleep in, watch TV and sleep some more," Portland manager Jeff Lahti said of his players. "I think we've got a lot of tired guys. It's been a grind for them."

But, as Lahti noted, "baseball is a grind, it doesn't matter if you're playing 162 games or 62 in a season. If you're going to be a ballplayer, you've got to learn to find a way to get better every day and a way to find the energy to compete every day."

After Wednesday's loss in a three-hour, 22-minute game, the Pickles held a longer-than-usual team meeting, huddled outside their dugout.

The message, Lahti said, was "to keep your heads up."

"We're better than we showed tonight," he said. "For one thing, we ran out of arms."

Four of the six GWL teams will make it to the league playoffs.

"It's too early to talk about playoffs," Lahti said, but the Pickles are in fourth place. At 14-19, they are two games ahead of Marysville (12-21) and 4 1/2 games above the Yuba City Bears.

Portland's next six games will be against Marysville (three away), and the next three games after that are on the road versus Yuba City.

"This stretch is really crucial," Lahti said. "We'd like to get some more distance between us and those two teams."

The Pickles won't have one of their top relievers, Matt Tomazin, back until after this next three-game home series. He's been on vacation.

But Dustin Redish has been carrying a load out of the bullpen and "is our most improved player since the start of the season," Lahti says.

Left-hander Sam Muskat, out of Central Catholic High and going into his sophomore year at Montana State Billings, has a couple of saves and a 1.08 ERA in 11 appearances and 16 2/3 innings.

But for depth purposes, Lahti said the Pickles are looking at using catcher Tate Budnick from the University of Portland in a closer role. Budnick, who just finished his junior year at UP, was all-state at pitcher and catcher while at Edmonds-Woodway High in Washington, and the right-hander worked 60 innings this spring for the Pilots, starting eight times in 17 appearances.

"In a short-series situation, with the top starters we have, I think we're pretty good," Lahti said. "We've just got to do a better job of getting people out in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings."

On Wednesday, Pickles starter Mike Gagliardi, who plays college ball at Army, came out after two innings. Andrew Eppenbach, from Orange Coast College, took his place and pitched three innings. Matt Olstead, of Edmonds Community College, took the mound for two innings, followed by Redish, who didn't allow a hit or walk over the final two innings.

Medford got two runs in its first at-bat, thanks to three hits, a walk and a wild pitch.

The Pickles came back, though, and took their only lead of the game.

In the bottom of the first, Alex Henwood and Daniel Lopez singled, and then Zander Clarke walked. A single by Budnick scored two runs, and Clarke came home on Koty Fallon's fielder's choice for a 3-2 Pickles advantage.

In the top of the second, a bases-loaded walk tied the score, and the Rogues took a 5-3 lead on a ground ball, wild pitch and two balks.

Medford tacked on two runs in the fourth. Two came home on a bases-loaded fielder's choice.

A two-run fifth made the score 9-3 for the Rogues.

Griffin Mueller's sixth-inning double drove in Portland's fourth run.

Medford added three runs in the seventh.

Clarke, from UCLA, was 1 for 1 with four walks. In 16 games this summer with the Pickles, he is batting .515 and has 28 RBIs and eight home runs and eight doubles, all ranking first on the team.

The Pickles are averaging 6.1 runs per GWL game, while giving up 5.9.

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