MEDFORD — It’s not necessarily how you start, it’s how you finish. And despite stumbling out of the gates in a 9-2 loss to Medford to begin the season on Monday, the Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s still know there will be a chance for them to play in the AAA American Legion state tournament at the end of July.
“It’s early, early, early,” said Docs coach Jerimiah Robbins. “I don’t even know if they all know each other’s names yet.”
It’s only been about two weeks since tryouts and the Docs had only a handful of practices last week before the season got underway. Robbins feels the beauty of the summer schedule is that guys get to play a lot of games.
“The games are going to start racking up, which is good. We need that competitive atmosphere. You know, to get our season kicked off, we’re really happy about that,” Robbins said.
Dr. Stewart’s will play approximately 40 games this season, before hosting the Oregon AAA American Legion state tournament July 24-28. As the host team, the Docs will get an automatic berth, but that’s not something the team will take for granted.
“Our first goal is to win the Area 4 title. That needs to get back in Roseburg’s hands,” said Robbins, although he does admit there are some advantages to being the host team.
“We’re going to keep our guys fresh as we go throughout the season. So, when we get to July 24 we’ll be at our peak. We know exactly where we’re going to be at the end of the season, so that’s a huge advantage for us.”
Of course, winning a league title and competing in the state tournament will require everything to fall into place. This is Robbins’ third season back leading the Docs (in his second stint) and he admits there was an adjustment period when he took over in 2019.
“I felt like that was one of the things that hampered us a little bit (in 2019), we didn’t know each other very well,” Robbins explained.
Now in 2021, the Docs have three players (Spencer Six, Jace Stoffal and Jett Black) that in their fourth season on the Docs, plus five others that have at least a season with the club under their belts.
Stoffal, a member of Robbins’ collegiate team at Umpqua Community College, says the coaching is starting to sink in and he’s bringing new insight into this summer.
“The experience I got from college really helps and just being with coach Robbins for three years now, just getting that good mindset and just being able to compete every play. And I finally got what he means by that and just being able to apply that to the game is very helpful and just makes you compete at a higher level.”
Robbins says he’ll lean on Stofall as well as Black, Six, Austin Anderson and Tyler Thornton to be leaders as the older guys on the team returning from college.
For Thornton, his age may say wise veteran, but he’s actually still one of the new guys playing his first summer with the Docs.
“It was really exciting to get that call from Robbins. I was really eager to get down here and start practice,” said Thornton, who played for Clackamas Community College this spring after graduating from Reedsport High School in 2020.
This season’s 16-man roster is half-filled with guys like Thornton, making their debuts with the historic Legion program.
Unlike Thornton, many of them will have the chance to spend the next few seasons on the team. The Docs have nine players on the roster that are just finishing their sophomore and junior school years.
“We’re going to go through some bumps and bruises early,” said Robbins. “But that’s fine. These kids are ready to go.”
It was a bit of a slow start to the season. South Umpqua’s Ever Lamm was roughed up for seven runs in the first two innings against Medford (7-1) on Monday. The Docs (0-1) were held scoreless until pushing across two runs in the ninth, despite not getting a hit in the inning.
Cody Borragine and Tanner Douglas combined to hold Roseburg to just three hits, but Robbins is focused on the positives as the season picks up steam.
The biggest silver lining to the season-opening loss? The Docs will get a chance on Wednesday at home to get even with the Mustangs in another nonleague, nine-inning contest.
First pitch from Bill Gray Legion Stadium at Champion Car Wash Field is slated for 6 p.m. Follow Docs baseball on The Score 92.3 FM/1490 AM or watch a video simulcast streaming at 541radio.com.
Lamm, Corbin (3) and Six, Hubbard (7). Borragine, Douglas (7) and Robbins, Zanni (9). W — Borragine. L — Lamm (0-1). S — Douglas. 2B — Gillespie (D), Miller (M), Robbins (M). 3B — Westrick (M).