Jul. 19—Staff reports
Tactical offensive execution accompanied by sound defense gave rise to the Medford Mustangs' surge over the weekend as they captured the Area 4 title and claimed a top seed in the American Legion AAA state tournament.
In their final Area 4 doubleheader of the season on Sunday, the Mustangs swept the Eugene Challengers 11-4 and 12-2 in five innings at Lithia & Driveway Fields. The Mustangs also defeated the Challengers 9-1 on Saturday during Game 2 of their twin bill in Eugene.
Over those final three games, the Mustangs' offense erupted for 32 runs on 32 hits while committing zero errors. After Sunday's wins, the Mustangs (30-7, 7-1 Area 4) are headed to Roseburg this coming Saturday for the state tournament, where they will open against a team to be determined at 1 p.m.
"The first game of the series was disappointing," said Mustangs coach Nate Mayben on Eugene's 4-3 victory in the opener last Saturday. "We only put like three balls on the ground but we made an adjustment, put the ball in play and made (Eugene) make plays. They booted the ball around a bit and we took advantage of it."
In the heart of the Mustangs' lineup, Jace Miller was a constant nightmare for the Challengers (37-15, 5-3). In Medford's three wins, Miller went 11-for-13 from the plate and came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the series against the Challengers in Sunday's opener.
With the Challengers leading 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth and the bases loaded for the Mustangs, Miller obliged with a single that knocked home Cody Borraggine to tie the score 4-all and ignited a six-run frame that put Medford in the driver's seat with a 9-4 advantage.
"Down by one run, we were gonna bunt Tanner (Douglas) in that situation but they ended up walking him and then Jace did a good job coming up with a single," said Mayben. "Then we played small ball and were able to execute and that put the pressure on them and got us going for the day."
Miller went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored in the contest. Cameron Sewell added a solo home run in the first inning, was walked twice and scored three times.
On the mound, Owen Thompson earned the win for the Mustangs, allowing four runs on seven hits and four walks.
Sunday's nightcap lasted just five innings after Miller's single to left field brought home Sewell and enacted the 10-run mercy rule.
"He's been hot and came up big for us," said Mayben about Miller. "Having him there in the middle of the lin up and having guys get on base in front of him is huge."
Medford's starting pitcher Cody Borraggine picked up the win, tossing all five innings where he struck out five and allowed two runs on five hits and three walks.
Miller matched his effort from earlier in the day by going 3-for-4 with a double, a pair of RBIs and two runs scored.
The Mustangs' Kaleb Long drove in three runs and finished 2-for-3 while both Aiden Horsley and Jeremiah Robbins went 2-for-2. Horsley added a double and scored three times while Robbins crossed home twice.
On Saturday after the Mustangs lost the first game of their twin bill in Eugene, Medford starting pitcher Tanner Douglas was lights out from the mound once he found his groove.
Douglas surrendered one run on one hit, a walk and a hit batter in the first inning but scattered just two hits the rest of the way while the offense backed him with four runs in the top of the second inning followed by three more in the third to pull away.
"Once he gets dialed in, he's tough to hit," said Mayben on Douglas. "He's been pretty solid for us all year long. He's been fun to watch on the hill."
Douglas went the distance to strike out seven while Miller came away 5-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Frankie Rutigliano was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI while Borraggine added an run-scoring single in the second inning and an RBI double in the third.
Douglas and Robbins; Stavros, Crist (6) and Koffler. W — Douglas. L — Stavros. 2B — M: Long, Borraggine, Sewell.
Greene, Vreim (6) and Cook; Thompson and Robbins. W — Thompson. L — Greene. 2B — M: Miller. HR — M: Sewell.
Anderson, Martinez (5) and Koffler; Borraggine and Robbins. W — Borraggine. L — Anderson. 2B — M: Miller. 3B — M: Horsley.