EUGENE — It all went Medford’s way Thursday in the first round of the American Legion Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.
In a 24-3 victory over the South Anchorage Wolverines — a game that ended in the seventh inning because of the mercy rule — the Oregon state champion Mustangs were able to take their foot off the pedal early.
They pulled ace starter Colton Westfall after just two innings, saving valuable innings for later in the tournament — and, in fact, perhaps positioning Westfall to start again Friday.
They let workhorse catcher Austin Zavala take a seat after working just three innings behind the plate, played station-to-station baseball as early as the second inning and essentially cleared the bench.
With the win, the Mustangs (33-13) advance to play the Missoula Mavericks in the first game of a doubleheader at 4 p.m. today. The Wolverines (19-13) play an elimination game against the Boise Gems at 10 a.m. today.
The Mustangs pounded 22 hits. Shortstop Micah Brown hit a home run over the left-field fence, later tripled and drove in five runs. First baseman David Crofton had three doubles, third baseman Josh Berman had a pair of doubles and center fielder Christian Gillis had four hits and five RBIs.
Designated hitter Bryce Rogan was 3-for-3 and scored five runs, and second baseman Taylor Raff was 3-for-6 and scored four times.
The Mustangs sent 14 batters to the plate in the second inning, 10 in the fourth and 12 in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Westfall and relievers Jordan Ragan, Cody Hoff and Steen Frederickson scattered five hits, struck out 13 and walked just two.
“It was obviously a good situation for us,” said Medford coach Nate Mayben. “We started Colton, we didn’t know what they had, so we were going to go with our No. 1 right away. But it’s good for us to jump on them early so we could get him out early.
“Our boys did a good job of just continuing to play the game and stick with what we do, with good plate appearances and put the ball in play. We’ve got to come out and do the same thing tomorrow.”
Mayben said Westfall would likely get the start against Missoula.
“We’re going to sit down and evaluate what we’ve got ...,” he said. “We’ve got everyone ready to go, but we’ll probably come back with him.”
The Mustangs took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first against South Anchorage ace Nick Evans. Raff started the rally with a double, folllowed by walks to Zavala and Rogan. Raff scored on a wild pitch, Zavala scored on a groundout by Brown and Rogan scored on a double to left-center by Crofton.
The Area 4 champions added eight more in the second for an 11-0 lead, sending 14 batters to the plate and ripping seven hits, the big blow the two-run homer to left by Brown. In the inning, the Mustangs took advantage of Evans hitting two batters, walking a batter and throwing errantly to first (one of two South Anchorage errors in the frame).
When Brown’s two-out homer, which put the Mustangs up 8-0, was followed by back-to-back doubles by Crofton and Berman, Evans was replaced by Alex Schlegel, who surrendered three singles and a walk before recording the final out.
In the third, Rogan doubled to left-center and eventually scored on an infield single by Jimmy Sporer for a 12-0 lead.
The Wolverines got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning against Ragan when catcher Alec Valdez singled, stole second, went to third on an infield hit by Max Micks and scored on a groundout by Nick Lopertone.
But Medford came back in with four in the fourth, sending 10 batters to the plate, the big hit a two-run double by Crofton, which was followed by another double by Berman.
Against Hoff, the third Medford pitcher, South Anchorage scored twice in the fifth on a single, walk and two infield singles.
Medford sent 12 batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring seven more runs on four hits and two Alaska errors for a 23-3 lead, keyed by Brown’s two-RBI triple. Gillis’ fourth hit of the game plated Medford’s last run in the sixth.
South Anchorage 000 120 0 — 3 6 4
Medford 381 471 x — 24 22 0
Jensen, Schlegel (2), Koloski (4), Costello (5) and Valdez, McVeigh; Westfall, Ragan (3), Hoff (5), Frederickson (7) and Zavala, Glick. W — Ragan (3-2). L — Jensen. 2B — M: Raff, Rogan, Crofton 3, Berman 2. 3B — M: Brown. HR — Brown.