Coaches will tell you that all you can ask for in a state tournament game is to have a chance.
Opportunities weren't the problem for the Medford Mustangs on Thursday at Harry & David Field.
RECAP: Eric Carlson goes 2-for-5 with two runs and one RBI, Nate Walker scores twice with one RBI and Charlie Walker adds a two-run single to pace Medford, which erases a 7-1 deficit but still loses its second straight game in the tournament.
Capitalizing on them, however, proved to be the host team's untimely demise as the Mustangs suffered their second straight loss and were ousted from the American Legion AAA state tournament.
The Portland Eastside Barbers opened a 7-1 advantage through five innings but committed six errors and issued eight walks to leave the door open for Medford. The Mustangs chipped away and eventually tied the game in the seventh but couldn't get over the hump in an 8-7 loss in 10 innings.
"They gave us a lot of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of," said Mustangs head coach Nate Mayben. "We didn't have a single hit through 41/3 innings but somehow we had a bunch of baserunners. We just didn't come out and clutch up, that's all there is to it."
"We've got to hit the ball better than that," he added. "We just didn't get it done in that aspect of the game."
Medford (28-19) had advanced to the state championship final in each of the past seven seasons but lost out on a chance to extend that streak by going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The young Mustangs, who have all but two players eligible to return next summer, stranded 13 baserunners and managed only seven hits in 10 innings.
"You would like to play better, obviously, on this stage and get that experience of playing good baseball," said Mayben. "But these guys kinda know what it feels like to come out and go two and done, and hopefully it puts some fire in their belly for next year."
There certainly wasn't much fire exhibited by the Mustangs through five innings, with Portland scoring in each inning to build the 7-1 cushion. Its first two runs came via two-out hits, with a three-run fourth inning sparked by three walks from Medford starter Cody Hoff and two errors.
Medford's lone run in that span came in the second inning when leadoff walks to Micah Brown and David Crofton led to a run after a sacrifice bunt by Eric Carlson and an RBI groundout by Bryce Rogan.
The Mustangs finally came alive with four runs in the sixth inning, albeit with the help of two errors by the Barbers. Crofton walked to open the frame and Rogan laced a one-out single through the right side. Nate Walker's grounder to third was misplayed to load the bases, and Crofton raced home on a wild pitch to make it 7-2. After Taylor Raff walked to load the bases again, Austin Zavala's grounder was misplayed by third baseman Dakota Drake to allow another run to score. Charlie Walker then followed with a two-run single to center field for a 7-5 score.
Momentum remained on Medford's side in the seventh as the Mustangs tied the game at 7-all against the Barbers' fourth pitcher.
The seventh didn't get off to a notable start, however, as Crofton managed a leadoff single but was erased on a strikeout-throwout double play moments later. Rogan picked up his teammates with his second hit of the game, then raced home on a two-out RBI double to the right-center gap by Nate Walker. Jared Evans evened the score moments later with a sharp single to right field.
"The way all the momentum changed, I thought it was all in our favor," said Mustangs second baseman Charlie Walker, "but just a couple hits here and there can change it all."
Those hits, unfortunately, didn't come from the Mustangs.
Medford stranded Brown at third base in the eighth inning, then went down in order on three pitches in the bottom of the ninth before stranding Zavala at first in the 10th.
"We had them on their heels (in the seventh) and then we had some more opportunities after that that we just didn't take advantage of," said Mayben. "That was kind of the motto of the tournament for us, we just left guys on base with no clutch hits."
In contrast, Portland got a two-out double by Alec Dehnert to a big hole in left-center field in its half of the 10th and plated him moments later with the eventual game-winner on a single that slipped by Charlie Walker through the right side of the infield.
"They got hits that we didn't get," said the Medford second baseman, who is joined by Hayden Evans as the only Mustangs out of eligibility for next year. "We hit line drives that didn't do anything and they hit a few infield groundballs that got through. Things kinda just went their way with that and they scored runs when they needed to.
"Today and yesterday, I think we were just putting the ball in the air a little too much and other teams were hitting it on the ground and that was the way to go."
Isaiah Luzny and Brown each pitched well in relief for Medford, holding the Barbers to only an extra-inning run over the final five frames. Brown struck out three and retired his first seven batters before giving up the Dehnert double, while Luzny allowed only three hits and one run in four innings.
Rogan finished 2-for-5 with two runs and one RBI, while Nate Walker also scored twice to lead Medford's offense. For Portland, Kevin Lave and Drake each had two hits and two RBIs, while Robby Hieberg and Dehnert each scored twice.
With the loss ending Medford's run at state, Mayben had no other choice but to look ahead toward the 2014 season.
"We'll go into next year and put together the best team we can," said the third-year head coach. "I like the guys we have, we have some good young talent. But there's also some good young talent out there on the Colts and Mavericks and Pilots and down in Yreka, so I'm excited. I think we're going to be going up for a while here. Hopefully this is the lowest spot we'll be in."
Portland 111 310 000 1— 8 12 6
Medford 010 004 200 0 — 7 7 4
Doyle, Heiberg (3), Evans (6), Lave (7), Stringer (8) and Rose; Hoff, Luzny (4), Brown (8) and Zavala. W — Stringer. L — Brown (1-3). 2B — P: Rose; M: N. Walker.