A four-pitch walk kept Medford's state-playoff hopes alive Friday, and a Game 2 walkover sealed the deal as the Mustangs swept a crucial Area 4 doubleheader from visiting Eugene at Harry & David Field.

A four-pitch walk kept Medford's state-playoff hopes alive Friday, and a Game 2 walkover sealed the deal as the Mustangs swept a crucial Area 4 doubleheader from visiting Eugene at Harry & David Field.

Faced with having to sweep the Bi-Mart Challengers in order to extend their American Legion AAA season, the Mustangs did just that by scoring three unanswered runs in the opener for a 3-2 win.

That momentum carried over to the nightcap, where Medford won 10-0 in a game shortened to six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

"I'm real proud of them," Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger said of his team."We've been through a rough time the last couple weeks. We started doubting a little bit and it's hard not to, but all you can do is keep plugging away. This is going to be a good experience for them. A new season, a new life. I'm happy as hell. I get to hang around these guys a little bit longer."

Medford (28-15, 9-7 Area 4) advances to face the No. 2 seed from Area 3 in a best-of-three state subplayoff series beginning Thursday on the road. Friday's game will be at Harry & David Field, with the Area 3 representatives to be determined by this weekend's league playoff.

Roseburg (8-4 Area 4) can lock up the Area 4 championship this weekend during a pair of doubleheaders against Grants Pass (2-10 Area 4), while Klamath Falls (9-7 Area 4) will be the league's No. 3 seed behind the Mustangs.

"It's just whose gonna fight harder for it now," said Medford left fielder Mark Austad, who was a combined 5-for-7 with two runs and five RBIs on Friday. "Baseball's a weird game but we've got a good ballclub. If we stay aggressive, we can beat just about anybody out here."

Medford struggled to get something going in the opener, stranding baserunners in three of the first five innings before finally breaking through in the sixth inning down 2-0.

When Dustin Smith earned a walk to open the sixth, it marked the fourth straight inning the Mustangs had their leadoff batter reach base. After a flyout, Austad slapped a single to put yet another runner in scoring position.

This time, however, the Mustangs came through with a clutch hit as Griff Boyd fisted an offering over second baseman Nick Stiltner into shallow right field for an RBI single.

"We'd been having trouble putting the ball in play and stuff hadn't been going our way until Griff got that ball," said Mustangs center fielder Jordan Bostwick. "That really got our momentum going and hopefully we can take that into the playoffs."

Chris Vitus then came on in relief of Alex Besaw, but found similar results as Jared Smith fisted his own RBI single over Besaw, who moved to second, to tie the game.

The Challengers tried to answer in the top of the seventh when Brooks McKee reached on a one-out error and advanced to second on a single by Travis Rooke-Ley. Undaunted, Jordan Lewis forced two groundouts to end the threat.

Vitus hit Bostwick with a pitch to give Medford its first baserunner with one out in the seventh, and Dustin Smith followed with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single to put runners on the corners.

After a mound conference, the Challengers opted to intentionally walk Logan Odom to load the bases and pitch to Austad. The decision backfired moments later as Vitus threw four straight pitches well wide of the strike zone to walk in the winning run.

"It looked like he was just trying to throw too hard, not within himself," Austad said of Vitus' four fastballs. "He's an amazing pitcher but he just tried to blow it by me every pitch it looked like and he just left it up. Four straight balls and that's game."

Austad said he was as surprised as anyone on how the at-bat played out.

"I was gripping tight ready to swing," he said. "The worst thing you can do in that position is let the bat sit on your shoulder, but he bailed me out and made it easy for me."

The demoralizing way in which Eugene lost the opener seemed to carry over to Game 2, with the Challengers barely able to put up a fight against a rejuvenated stable of Mustangs.

"All our momentum carried over and I think they kinda fell apart," said Bostwick, who was 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs in Game 2.

Austad wasted little time in making an impact in the nightcap, slapping a two-run single in the first inning to give Medford the only runs it would need.

Jared Smith added an RBI double and Derek Grieve an RBI groundout in the third inning to make it 4-0, and the Mustangs broke the game open for good with six runs in the sixth. Bostwick supplied a two-run double in the final frame, with Odom drawing a walk to plate another run. Another two-run single by Austad put the Mustangs on the cusp of victory, and Boyd's RBI single past third baseman Markus Lindsey ended it.

While the Mustang offense slowly but surely came together Friday night, Medford was able to fend off any Challenger threat thanks to the fine pitching of Lewis in Game 1 and Matt Maurer in the nightcap.

Lewis improved to 9-1 by striking out seven and allowing only six hits and one walk.

"That's what he's capable of doing every time out," said Kensinger. "He's done it all year for us. He's a good, quiet kid that's all business and just goes out and does the job."

Maurer backed up his fellow left-hander with nine strikeouts to offset six walks in Game 2.

"He pitched himself out of some real tough jams where he walked guys and got himself in trouble," said Kensinger. "That was really important for us."

As was making it to a second season.

"That's good for these kids," said Kensinger, whose Mustangs last failed to advance to the state subplayoffs in 2001. "To get in, that's the thing. It's important to get in."

FIRST GAME

Eugene Challengers 001 010 0 — 2 6 0

Medford Mustangs 000 002 1 — 3 8 1

Besaw, Vitus (6) and Hoffman, Stiltner (6); Lewis and Bruhns. W — Lewis (9-1). L — Vitus. 2B — E: Rooke-Ley.

SECOND GAME

Eugene Challengers 000 000 — 0 2 2

Medford Mustangs 202 006 — 10 10 1

Rooke-Ley, Winterstein (6), Kirkpatrick (6) and Stiltner; Maurer and Bruhns. W — Maurer (4-4). L — Rooke-Ley. 2B — E: Lindsey; M: Austad, J. Smith, Bostwick.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com