PORTLAND — The Medford Mustangs played their way to within four outs of the American Legion baseball state title Sunday before the Eugene Challengers rallied for an overwhelming 13-6 win at Concordia University.
Eugene scored five runs in the top of the eighth — four of them with two outs — and seven more in the top of the ninth to support starter Joe Schindler and win the program's third title.
RECAP: Nate Namanny hits a three-run double and reliever A.J. Doolittle pitches five solid innings for the Mustangs, who finish second at the state tournament for a third straight year.
The Mustangs got a three-run double from Nate Namanny in the fourth and five solid innings from reliever A.J. Doolittle before the game fell apart, which led to the team finishing second at the state tournament for a third straight year.
"We gave it everything we had, but sometimes the ball just rolls the way you don't want it to," Medford coach Nate Mayben said. "You don't want it to happen in a game like this, but that's how it can happen."
"It seemed like we were going to take it, but then the game just changed," Namanny said. "It's very frustrating to finish second for the third straight year."
Eugene won five consecutive elimination games after losing its opener to the Salem Dodgers Wednesday. The Challengers beat the Dodgers 5-4 Sunday with a two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to set up the final game with Medford in the stifling heat.
Eugene, which last won the state title in 1999, will continue its season at the eight-team Northwest Regional beginning Wednesday in Billings, Mont.
"This was our goal all season," Eugene coach Todd Zeigler said. "We wanted to represent Oregon at the regionals."
Medford, seeking its 13th state title, seemed poised to head to Billings after seven innings. Doolittle entered in the second inning for his fourth relief appearance of the tournament, and calmly took the game into the eighth with the Mustangs leading 4-1.
Namanny had given the Mustangs a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a base-clearing drive to right-center, and drove in another run in the sixth on an infield groundout.
Eugene got one run back in the seventh and put its lead-off batter on in the eighth, which caused Mayben to pull Doolittle and call on Namanny to close the game out from the mound. Although the first batter, clean-up hitter Brett Nielsen, hit an RBI triple to cut the lead to 4-2, Namanny got the next two batters out and worked the ensuing batter, Travis Boggs, to a 3-2 pitch. But that pitch hit Boggs and the following two batters hit RBI singles to tie the game.
Mayben inserted Charlie Walker at pitcher and he coaxed a long fly ball to right, which Eric Wallan appeared to lose in the bright sun. Despite nearly making a catch on the run, the ball bounced off his glove and two more runs scored on the play.
The Challengers sent 13 batters to the plate in the ninth inning, which ended with the bases loaded. Mayben called on two more relievers in the inning.
"It's hard to fight for an entire game and then lose like that," Doolittle said. "They were getting on base and getting all fired up. That was tough to watch."
Although the first four innings were played in 35 minutes, the game lasted two hours, 48 minutes.
Medford finished the season at 30-22.
Eugene 000 000 157 — 13 13 0
Medford 000 301 002 — 6 8 2
Schindler, Woods (9); Flynn, Doolittle (2), Namanny (8), Walker (8), Hoff (9), Fredrickson (9). W — Schindler. L — Namanny. 2B — E: McDaniel; M: Namanny, Walker, Hornbrook. 3B — E: Nielsen.