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Mustangs fall in national final

AP photo

RAPID CITY, S.D. ­ It was almost as real as the rain that peltedFitzgerald Stadium.

The taste of victory, the aroma of national championship.

The Medford Mustangs were oh-so close.

Taking an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Medford Mustangslooked the part of the American Legion AA World Series champions.

They had gotten the pitching from Steve Bechler and another murderer'srow performance from the hitters.

But just as the thunder and lightening blew through earlier in the dayin unsettling fashion, Sanford, Fla., stormed back with seven runs in thebottom of the sixth.

In a flash, the Mustangs' title hopes and the perfect ending for an extraordinaryseason were dashed.

We did a heckuva job, we just didn't get it done when we had to,said Brian Fachet, Medford's third baseman, who tied a record by sluggingsix home runs in World Series play.

Sanford use a 12-run inning to overtake Medford 17-7 Saturday night andthe method was similar Tuesday when Florida wiped out the Mustangs' 8-2lead with two runs in the fifth and seven more in the sixth.

This is one of the best feelings I've ever had in my whole life,said Tim Raines Jr., who smashed a pair of two-run home runs to spur Sanfordto victory. It's one thing we've been working on the whole season,just to get here.

After dropping a 12-2 seven-inning decision to the long-ball hittingMustangs earlier in the day, Sanford was admittedly disheartened.

We were feeling down since we lost the first game and we just wantedto go out and play our best, said Raines, whose dad is an outfielderfor New York Yankees.

They jumped out on us again in the second game and we just wantedto go out there and forget about everything and just play our game.

Chris Louwsma climaxed Sanford's explosion with a three-run homer overthe right-field fence off Medford reliever Hans Smith, who suffered hisfirst loss of the season after 15 straight victories.

I was looking for a pitch over the plate, something I could drivefor some RBIs, said Louwsma, an 18-year-old third baseman. ``It wasright over the plate and I knew it was gone.

Raines kept the Florida team close heading into the sixth inning witha pair of two-run home runs off Bechler.

Bechler, who hurled a seven-inning victory earlier in the day, departedin the fifth after giving up Raines' second round-tripper and a walker toAndy Neufeld.

Steve probably could've kept going, but he was up over 200 pitches,Medford coach Sandee Kensinger said. He has Gumby arm and can throwa lot of pitches. He threw about 110 pitches in the first game and he startedthe second game, because I go with how the kids feel.

He had his stuff, but made a couple of mistakes to Raines.

Chaz Lytle, who had spent the tournament as Sanford's designated hitter,came on in relief in the fourth when Medford erupted for four runs to takea 7-2 lead. Lytle tossed the final 2 innings and allowed only one hit.

I actually haven't pitched that much, said the left-hander.But I wasn't surprised to come in, because I saw some action in theregional and the coaches have a lot of faith in me.

Medford had a threat going in the seventh ­ the decision to playseven innings came because of a rain delay in the early game and worriesabout possible rain later in the night ­ when Ryan Petersen beat outand infield hit with one out and Nate Mayben reached on an error.

But Lytle fielded Nate Philo's grounder and got a force out at thirdbase before inducing Alex Chavez to ground to second for the final out.

I feel like I did a pretty good job, Lytle said. I'mvery happy.

Medford jumped to a quick lead when Shawn Walker ripped a solo homerin the first inning. The lead went to 3-0 in the top of the third on Walker'ssecond homer of the game, a two-run shot to right. Walker also tripled inthe fourth to give him a record-tying 11 total bases.

Medford took advantage of two errors, two hits and three wallks to scorefour times in the fourth.

You always get worried when you get down, but I try not to showit to the players, said Sanford coach Rod Fergerson. I wantthem to feel you're still confident that you can still pull it out. I thinkthey felt that way too.

In the opener, Bechler limited Sanford to eight hits and two runs, whilestriking out eight in a game ended after the top of the seventh due to the10-run rule.

The contest was twice delayed by rain and lightning.

Fachet delivered the big blow for Medford during a seven-run outburstin the third inning.

With one out, Philo got his team on the board with a solo home run. Chavezand Walker followed with singles and Kevin Follett delivered another runwith a double. Then Fachet pounded a three-run homer to center field tobreak the game open.

Medford players congratulate Nate Philo (5) after his home run in Tuesday's first game.