Aug. 6—One day after Medford's worst showing in weeks, Friday's effort wasn't entirely perfect but the Mustangs came up big whenever it mattered most to avoid elimination at the American Legion AAA Northwest Regional in Gillette, Wyoming.
Medford recorded two outs at home plate in the first inning, another later at third base and saw relief pitcher Julius Bolstad record three crucial strikeouts against Eagle River of Alaska to slow the Wolves for a 12-2 win on Day 3 at Hladky Memorial Stadium.
"Defensively, we made a couple relay plays and threw a couple guys out at the plate that really kind of bailed us out," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, "because we were not sitting pretty those first couple innings. They should have had three or four runs, easy."
Instead, the two-time defending Alaska state champions were limited to two runs and Medford broke the bats out in a big way during a six-run third inning that proved to be the turning point in Friday's game.
"We started off a little sluggish, making some errors and some things weren't going too well in those first couple innings," added Mayben, "but we finally got our minds right and got to work and did some good things. We put the ball in play hard a lot today."
Cody Borraggine, Cameron Sewell, Jace Miller, Aiden Horsley, Jeremiah Robbins and Frankie Rutigliano each provided two hits to boost the Mustangs (39-8).
"Hopefully that builds a little bit of confidence going into tomorrow and we can go into tomorrow hitting the baseball," said Mayben.
Medford will play another elimination game at either 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. (Pacific) on Saturday, depending on Friday's late-game result between the Idaho Falls Bandits and Billings Royals of Montana.
The Mustangs will face Idaho Falls either way since they've already played Billings, losing 5-3 on Thursday, and Friday's other elimination game winner — Wyoming state champion Cheyenne — previously lost to Idaho Falls. Cheyenne ousted Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak of Washington, 8-2, in Friday's opener.
"We've just got to keep it going," said Mayben. "It's just one game at a time here."
If Idaho Falls loses on Friday, Medford plays in the early contest. A Bandits win against Billings means playing the late game. Both games, however, are in danger of being pushed up due to concerns of potential rain Saturday in Gillette.
Miller continued his stellar summer campaign with an RBI double to plate Sewell in the first inning, but a combination of aggressive tactics and an error allowed Eagle River to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the frame.
When Eagle River (29-12) missed on a squeeze bunt attempt, Robbins was able to induce the first out at home plate with a throw to Miller at third base and a subsequent throw back home to the catcher.
The Wolves again pushed the issue when cleanup hitter Liam Lierman singled to left field but Horsley came up firing with a strong throw to nab a second runner trying to advance past Robbins.
Medford starter Tanner Douglas then recorded a strikeout to end the threat with no runs allowed.
An error and a couple groundouts allowed Eagle River to take a 2-1 lead in the second, but that was short-lived.
In the top of the third, Miller ripped an RBI triple to right field to plate Sewell and tie the game, but the Mustangs would be far from done. Horsley hit a sharp RBI single to the left side, Robbins singled to keep momentum going and Owen Thompson followed with an RBI single to right field for a 4-2 edge.
Rutigliano dropped down a bunt single to bring home another run and, after Eagle River made a pitching change, Johnny King advanced runners with a groundout to the right side and then with two outs, Borraggine slipped a two-run single down the right field line to make it 7-2.
"They were in a loser-out game and I think that they were a little tense," Mayben said of Medford's early mood, "but that six-run inning obviously relaxed us a little bit."
It relaxed the Mustangs so much, in fact, that Mayben opted to pull Douglas after an intentional walk in the bottom of the third inning to save him for potential use should Medford get to Sunday's championship day and brought in Bolstad.
The Phoenix High product allowed a single by Lierman but followed with a strikeout. An unfortunate error against Miller on a ball that he blocked with his body down the third base line but ricocheted too far away from the bag allowed the Wolves to load the bases, but Bolstad again stepped up with two straight strikeouts.
"Having Bolstad come in and do what he did on the mound for us — and to be able to get Tanner out at 45 pitches — was huge," said Mayben. "We weren't planning on trying to save Tanner, but when we went ahead 7-2 it was kind of like, are we gonna do it? And we did."
Bolstad went on to pitch 31/3 innings for the win, allowing only one hit with one walk and five strikeouts. Sewell tossed the final 12/3 innings on only 12 pitches with one hit allowed — and that runner was thrown out trying to advance to third on a double following a pinpoint relay from newly inserted right fielder Kyle Cope to King and ultimately to Miller.
King hit a one-out double and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, Rutigliano had a two-run single in the sixth and Horsley capped the scoring with a two-run single in the seventh to help Medford win going away.
In all, Horsley finished with three RBIs while Borraggine and Miller had two apiece.
Eagle River (Alaska)0200000—263
Douglas, Bolstad (3), Sewell (6) and Robbins; Kolberg, Wallace (3), Smith (6) and Roberts. W — Bolstad (7-0). L — Kolberg. 2B — M: Miller, King; ER: Smith. 3B — M: Miller.