Medford didn’t seem to have it in the first game of a key American Legion AAA doubleheader Friday night but the Mustangs regrouped in Game 2 to salvage a split with the Eugene Challengers to maintain their one-game lead in Area 4 play.
The Mustangs (27-8-1, 12-4 Area 4) struck out 13 times in the opener and came up short, 8-4, to the Challengers (17-17, 9-7) but used a strong pitching performance by Berry Hunt to secure the nightcap, 7-0.
“We really really struggled in the first game just trying to compete,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben. “There was very little energy and we weren’t competing very well. It was a good job of our guys grinding it out and just competing in the second game to get that one. We did a much better job and put the ball in play hard with only four strikeouts.”
Tate Cowden was 2-for-3 with two RBIs in each game for Medford, joining Hunt in belting solo home runs in Game 1.
In the nightcap, Hunt scattered six hits with five strikeouts and one walk to set the tone for the Mustangs.
“He was ahead of hitters all night,” said Mayben of Hunt. “He did a phenomenal job controlling all four pitches, he was just lights out.”
Jacob Melton was 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs and James Turnbull 2-for-3 with one RBI in Game 2, and Cole Carder added a solo home run.
Medford returns to action in Eugene today when it takes on Willamette Valley in an Area 4 doubleheader at 1 p.m.
Sanderson, Whitney (4), Shopp (5), Edwards (5) and Turnbull, Little (5); Ahlstrom and Bass. W — Ahlstrom. L — Sanderson (3-3). 2B — M: Carder; E: Boyles. HR — M: Cowden (2), Hunt (1).
Hunt and Little; Dudley, Hubbs (6) and Bass. W — Hunt (5-2). L — Dudley. 2B — M: Cowden 2, Melton, Turnbull; E: Boyles. 3B — M: Melton. HR — M: Carder (2).
ROGUES GO TO EXTRAS: At Chico, Calif., Medford staged a dramatic ninth-inning comeback — highlighted by a go-ahead two-run home run by Alex Isola — but Chico answered with its own late-game magic on a two-run homer by Caleb Van Blake in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at 12-all and send it into extra innings as of press time.
Medford, which leads the Great West League at 28-11, trailed 10-4 heading to the eighth inning but scored three runs in that frame, in part due to a two-run homer by Jake Gozzo, and then tacked on five more in a wild ninth inning rally.
Clay Valenzuela-Reece, who extended his franchise-record hitting streak to 17 games earlier in the contest, smacked a two-run single to get the rally started for the Rogues. Davis Delorefice followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Braden Stutzman and tied the game at 10-all, then Isola went deep with two outs for the go-ahead home run.
After a one-out walk issued by Will Floyd, Van Blake hit his fence-clearer to send the game into extra innings.