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MailTribune.com
  • AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL

    Mustangs score wild win, stay unbeaten

    Medford takes advantage of 10 Eugene errors to move to 4-0 at state tourney
  • GRANTS PASS — A night after playing a gem of a baseball game, the Medford Mustangs found themselves in a different sort of affair against the Eugene Challengers at Agnew-Lytle Field on Saturday.
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    • MUSTANGS 10, CHALLENGERS 6
      RECAP: Medford left-hander Isaiah Luzny strikes out nine and allows six hits in 72„3 innings of relief pitching and the Mustangs capitalize on 10 Eugene errors to win their 12th straight game.
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      MUSTANGS 10, CHALLENGERS 6
      RECAP: Medford left-hander Isaiah Luzny strikes out nine and allows six hits in 72„3 innings of relief pitching and the Mustangs capitalize on 10 Eugene errors to win their 12th straight game.

      UP NEXT: Today, noon, Medford Mustangs vs. Portland Eastside Barbers at Agnew-Lytle Field. If necessary, a second game will follow.
  • GRANTS PASS — A night after playing a gem of a baseball game, the Medford Mustangs found themselves in a different sort of affair against the Eugene Challengers at Agnew-Lytle Field on Saturday.
    At the end of each, however, all that mattered for Medford was the final result — and both were the same.
    The Mustangs moved their record to 4-0 in the American Legion AAA state tournament in an unorthodox game that saw Medford collect 12 hits, capitalize on 10 errors by Eugene and get caught up in two wild plays at the plate en route to a 10-6 triumph.
    "It was a high-energy game, very emotional with some of the things that happened, but you're going to get that in games like this," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, whose team has won 12 straight games. "Guys are going to go a little harder than they normally do and going to be a little more tense in certain situations but we did what we needed to get through."
    As the only undefeated team left in the tournament, the Mustangs (31-13) will have two chances today, if necessary, to secure their 12th state championship and first since winning back-to-back crowns in 2007 and '08.
    Medford and the Portland Eastside Barbers will square off at noon today and a Mustangs win would secure the title. If Portland wins, a second winner-take-all game would be played between the teams who met on Day 2, with Medford winning that game 10-1.
    "It's a very good team, very athletic with power," Mayben said of the Barbers. "We've got to play good baseball or else they're going to put a lot of runs up on the board. I don't know what they have left pitching-wise but they didn't get this far not having any pitching so I expect them to come out and compete."
    The Mustangs took an undefeated record into the final day in 2010 but lost twice to Roseburg in Klamath Falls.
    The Portland Eastside Barbers earned the right to play on the final day by securing an 11-1 victory in seven innings to eliminate the Corvallis Gerding Builders earlier Saturday.
    Although eliminated from the state tournament, the Eugene Challengers (29-22) will still compete in next week's Northwest Regionals since they are the host team.
    Even with very little riding on Saturday's game, everything seemed to ramp up after a few innings between a Medford and Eugene contingent extremely familiar with each other as Area 4 foes and high school rivals.
    "These two teams matched up in high school in the state championship (North Medford vs. Sheldon) with a lot of the same guys," said Mayben, "and you want to win a state championship, so it did mean a lot to them and meant a lot to us."
    Eugene forced a quick exit by Mustangs starter Steen Fredrickson in the top of the second inning after getting singles by David Bellamy and Dalton Pachano and a double to the left-center gap by No. 9 hitter Andy Arruda for a 1-0 lead. Isaiah Luzny came on to slow the Challengers and did just that after walking leadoff hitter Matt Land to load the bases. The left-hander then induced a check-swing pop out to third baseman Josh Berman and ended the threat with a flyout to left fielder Jimmy Sporer.
    That effort proved to be a harbinger of things to come, with Luzny turning his surprising early entry into a solid 72/3 innings of work that included nine strikeouts and six hits allowed. The Cascade Christian High graduate said he actually didn't expect to pitch at all on Saturday, figuring he would be left to pitch for today.
    "I was focused the whole time, I'm always ready to pitch, but I definitely didn't expect it," he admitted. "Once I got in, though, I was locked in and ready to go."
    It truly was Luzny's calming influence on the mound that helped carry the Mustangs through what turned into a wild ordeal by the time the night was complete. He allowed five runs but only one was earned as Medford committed four errors of its own.
    "He stayed level-headed," said Mayben. "He didn't get too hyped up or too emotional like the rest of the guys were on both sides. He just stayed on an even keel. That's the type of person he is and so he was in a perfect situation."
    Medford used small ball to its advantage in the bottom of the second to answer Eugene. Micah Brown reached on a bunt down the third-base line, stole second and then moved to third on a bunt by David Crofton that was misplayed by pitcher Brandon Brancato. With runners on the corners, Brancato then tried a pickoff attempt of Crofton but his throw bounced by first baseman Tanner Cantwell to allow Brown to score and Crofton to move to second base.
    A pair of strikeouts put Eugene in good position to minimize the damage in the bottom of the second but Sporer supplied an RBI single and then scored moments later on a hit-and-run where he never stopped after Christian Gillis' liner to right field got past Jalen Drath.
    That 3-1 lead for Medford, however, was short-lived as Taylor Frost reached on a one-out error by Berman in the top of the third and scored when Cantwell blasted a two-out, two-run homer over the right field fence.
    Errors remained the theme in the bottom half of the third, with Eugene shortstop Land bobbling and then throwing wide of first base a grounder by Crofton that allowed Bryce Rogan to score for a 4-3 Medford lead. The two-error play was Eugene's sixth and seventh of the game.
    A two-base throwing error by Berman put the Challengers in position to tie the game in the top of the fourth and Eugene capitalized on the 10th combined error of the game when right fielder Jared Evans dropped Drath's deep flyball just inside the foul line and Arruda scored.
    The game settled down momentarily until Brown provided a spark with a one-out double in the fifth inning and scored on Crofton's grounder up the middle to give Medford a 5-4 advantage.
    Everything seemed to get turned on its ear after that.
    Berman drew a walk and then Evans put a charge into a ball that sent left fielder Bellamy crashing off the fence as the ball just stayed in the park. Both runners had to hold on the play and Crofton scored easily but Berman was called out at home on a close play that brought a moment of dispute by Mayben.
    If that wasn't enough, Sporer followed with a single through the right side and Evans never stopped churning toward home. Drath made a nice relay to catcher Dalton Pachano but Evans was ruled safe at home when he went over the top of the catcher and the ball came loose on the play. Eugene manager Todd Zeigler was ejected moments later after arguing the call that allowed Medford to go up 7-4, and both teams were noticeably charged up by the home-plate collision and ensuing activity.
    "Both the teams here are so competitive that it started to matter," said Luzny, "and we figured it's a great way to go in winning to the state championship game instead of losing, so we don't think we're on a negative foot heading in. It was a great win for us to stay hot and extend our winning streak going into the championship."
    Medford tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the seventh to go up 10-4, with Sporer's single plating Evans and Taylor Raff coming through with a blistered two-run triple to right-center that scored Sporer and Gillis.
    Eugene scrambled for a run in the top of the eighth and ninth innings but it wasn't enough to throw Luzny out of his rhythm and force Mayben to make a move.
    "It was probably one of the most chaotic games I've ever been in," said Luzny, "but a big thing being a pitcher at this level is having tunnel vision and ignoring all the noise and all the chaos that's going on because there was a lot of yelling and a lot of tempers were flaring. I just had to mentally stay focused and that was my goal, to not let my emotions show and just stay calm."
    Eugene Challengers 012 100 011 — 6 9 10
    Medford Mustangs 031 030 30x — 10 12 4
    Brancato, Boggs (6) and Pachano; Fredrickson, Luzny (2) and Zavala. W — Luzny (3-0). L — Brancato (2-4). 2B — E: Arruda; M: Brown, Evans. 3B — M: Raff. HR — E: Cantwell (1).
    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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