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MailTribune.com
  • AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL

    Mustangs heating up

    Medford sweeps Roseburg to close in on state tourney berth
  • The lull experienced by the Medford Mustangs at the beginning of this month seems to be a distant memory these days, and an automatic berth in the American Legion AAA state tournament is more of a reality than ever thanks to Wednesday's effort at Harry & David Field.
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    • MUSTANGS 7-3, DR. STEWART'S 0-2
      RECAP: Medford's David Crofton allows four hits with four strikeouts in the opening-game shutout and Cody Hoff secures the sweep by striking out 10 and allowing six hits in the nightcap.
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      MUSTANGS 7-3, DR. STEWART'S 0-2
      RECAP: Medford's David Crofton allows four hits with four strikeouts in the opening-game shutout and Cody Hoff secures the sweep by striking out 10 and allowing six hits in the nightcap.

      UP NEXT: Friday, 7 p.m., Medford Mustangs at Corvallis Gerding Builders.
  • The lull experienced by the Medford Mustangs at the beginning of this month seems to be a distant memory these days, and an automatic berth in the American Legion AAA state tournament is more of a reality than ever thanks to Wednesday's effort at Harry & David Field.
    With David Crofton handcuffing Roseburg Dr. Stewart's in the opening game of an Area 4 doubleheader for a 7-0 victory and Cody Hoff doing likewise in Game 2 with 10 strikeouts during a 3-2 triumph, the Mustangs were able to corral a key sweep that has them on the verge of a potential league title.
    "We went through a rough patch there for a little while," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, "but to get back on the winning side of things the last week is huge for us. Especially at this time of year you've gotta be playing your best baseball right now. We're playing some good baseball — I think we've got more in us — but hopefully that will get us in the right spot of where we need to be."
    Wednesday's sweep allowed Medford to improve to 10-4 in Area 4 play and 24-13 overall. The Mustangs have only one more league doubleheader left on the schedule against Willamette Valley (14-25, 3-9 Area 4) on Saturday. Grants Pass and Eugene each stood 6-5 in league play entering the second game of their doubleheader late Wednesday night, with the Nuggets already owning an automatic bid to the state tourney as its host team.
    "We've got two more to get that are really important," said Mayben, "but we've put ourselves in a good position to take care of business on our end and things will work out."
    The top two Area 4 teams outside of Grants Pass automatically advance to the state tournament, essentially meaning the Mustangs have already clinched a bid, but the key is gaining the No. 1 seed among that pairing. The No. 1 seed will open with the winner of one of the state super regionals, while the No. 2 seed will open against another conference champion that didn't have to play in a super regional.
    The No. 3 team from Area 4 will host a super regional, with the No. 4 team playing in a super regional in Portland.
    Medford jumped all over Roseburg (13-22, 6-8) in the opener, scoring twice in the first inning and three times in the second to build a comfortable 5-0 cushion. That effort was more than enough for starting pitcher David Crofton, who scattered four hits and walked one in a complete-game outing on 71 pitches.
    "In seven-inning games when you can come out and get runs early, that just sets a tone," said Mayben. "Those seven-inning games are short and if you get ahead early, you've done a lot of damage there and helps out a lot."
    Crofton was also helped out early on by a defense that turned a pair of double plays in the first and third innings. Only two Roseburg runners were able to advance into scoring position in the opener, with Cory Finlay stranded at third in the fourth thanks to a good defensive connection from third baseman Josh Berman to first baseman Cody Coggins. Jake Forrester found himself on second base for Dr. Stewart's in the sixth inning but, with two outs, got too far away from the bag and was picked off by catcher Austin Zavala to second baseman Taylor Raff.
    "David threw a lot of strikes, he had his curveball working well and he just pounded the zone," added Mayben. "They were really off balance. He just did a good job of mixing it up and really got after them."
    A leadoff walk to Christian Gillis was followed by a single from Raff to put runners on the corners in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1, and Zavala quickly gave his team the lead with an RBI single through the left side of the infield. Raff later scored when Micah Brown's grounder was misplayed.
    Jimmy Sporer's one-out single set the tone for a second-inning surge by the Mustangs. Gillis followed with a walk before Raff sent an RBI flare to right field for a 3-0 lead. After Zavala plated his second run on a sacrifice fly, Brown followed a single by Bryce Rogan with one of his own for a 5-0 advantage.
    The Mustangs were able to tack on two more runs in the sixth when Jared Evans and Sporer each crossed the plate after wild pitches by reliever Tylan Dubois.
    In the nightcap, the Mustangs scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a suicide squeeze bunt by Josh Berman that plated a hustling Brown from third base for the 3-2 decision.
    Brown had reached base after being hit by a pitch on the second offering from reliever Jacob Fricke. After Crofton put down a perfect sacrifice bunt, Berman came through with another bunt that forced catcher Wyatt McKnight far enough away from the plate that Brown could come sliding through for the go-ahead score.
    "We got a little lucky there, leading off the inning with a hit by pitch, but we did a good job executing the two bunts that we had to put down," said Mayben. "This team hasn't exactly been stellar with our short game but we executed tonight, so that's a good sign."
    Hoff was able to nail down the victory by earning his ninth and 10th strikeouts of the game in the top of the seventh to run his record to 4-2.
    Earlier in the game, Rogan plated Zavala with an RBI single in the first inning and the Ashland High graduate came up big again in the third to snap a 1-all tie with an RBI triple that followed a leadoff walk to Zavala.
    "They've been our table setters and most consistent hitters all year, that's why they're in the Nos. 3-4 spots," Mayben said of Zavala and Rogan, who entered the twin bill hitting .372 and .361, respectively. "It's nice they can use all sides of the field. They don't strike out a lot and they put the ball in play, and Bryce has a little pop in his bat."
    Another key element to the Mustangs' recent surge — Medford has gone 8-2 in its last 10 games — is the return of Brown to the shortstop position after a season spent doing only designated hitter duties because of a sore arm. Brown made a handful of nice defensive plays in the doubleheader and often kept Roseburg from advancing extra bases by diving and knocking down balls seemingly destined for the outfield.
    "Having Micah at shortstop has been a game-changer for us," said Mayben of the move that occurred Monday. "He just makes the plays for you. Sure he'll have an error here or there but he'll take away hits, and when you have a shortstop that can take away hits for you that's awesome. His range and his glove helps a lot, it just makes us a different team defensively."
    FIRST GAME
    Roseburg 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
    Medford 230 002 x — 7 8 1
    Stone, Dubois (6) and McKnight; Crofton and Zavala. W — Crofton (1-3). L — Stone. 2B — M: Gillis.
    SECOND GAME
    Roseburg 010 100 0 — 2 6 1
    Medford 101 001 x — 3 4 1
    Smith, Benzel (3), Fricke (6) and McKnight; Hoff and Zavala. W — Hoff (4-2). L — Fricke. 3B — M: Rogan.
    Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
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