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Mustangs foil rival Challengers

Effective pitching ' check.

Productive hitting ' check.

Flawless defense ' check.

Decisive victory over league nemesis and pre-tournament favorite?

Check.

The Medford Mustangs were clicking on all cylinders Thursday night in pummeling the Eugene Challengers, 11-3, in front of more than 1,400 fans at Miles Field.

The win advances the Mustangs (41-10 overall), 2-0 so far in the Boise Cascade American Legion AAA baseball state tournament, to a 7:30 matchup tonight with Roseburg Dr. Stewart's in winner's bracket play.

Lakeridge and Klamath Falls start today's schedule with an elimination game at noon, followed by Eugene and Pendleton in another loser-out affair at 4 p.m.

Thursday, Brady Rhodes and Brett Goble combined to limit Eugene's deadly offense to three runs on nine hits, Rob Folsom, Evan McArthur and Jimmy Ulrey each contributed three hits to a 15-hit attack and Ryan Heil made the play of the game defensively.

Baseball America could have filmed an instructional video from Medford's exquisite performance.

Eugene, you'd have to say is one of the top teams in the state, so to play that well in this game was huge, said Heil, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored at the plate in addition to his defensive heroics at second base.

With the Challengers down 4-0 and trying to mount a fifth-inning comeback with the bases loaded and no outs, Heil leapt and fully extended to snag a line-drive rocket off the bat of Casey Nagler.

As if the play wasn't spectacular enough already, Heil quickly tossed to shortstop McArthur to double-up Travis Nance at second base.

Ryan's an athlete, said third-year Mustangs head coach Brent Watts, who is trying to direct Medford to its first state title ' and subsequent regional berth ' since 1995.

He's successful at three different sports (earning all-state recognition in football, basketball and baseball as a senior at South Medford High last school year). And maybe he used a little of his basketball skills on that play.

Rhodes, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound left-hander, did relinquish a two-run double to A.J. Norris before escaping the fifth, but he affirmed that Heil's play was probably the game's biggest.

I saw it, and I was like, 'Oh, no,' Rhodes said of his reaction to Nagler's shot. Heil ' kid gets up ' picks if off and gets him at second. That was awesome. Crowd goes nuts. ... Evan made an awesome play too. It feels real good to have a defense like that behind me.

Rhodes worked into the fifth, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three.

His victory, which improved his record to 9-1 this summer, marked his second in two starts against Eugene (53-13).

Winners of three of four against the Mustangs during the regular season, the Area 4-champion Challengers blew up for 24 hits and five home runs in their opening-round, 30-2 annihilation of David Douglas on Wednesday.

But Rhodes kept them off-balance with a repertoire that featured sliders three-quarters of the time, along with fastballs and the occasional curve or knuckleball.

Slider away, fastball in, said the senior-to-be at Phoenix High. That's how I beat 'em the first time. Might as well stick with it.

After Medford extended its edge to 8-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Rhodes walked the first two batters in the top of the sixth, and Goble got the call from the bullpen.

A 6-4, 180-pound, sidearm-delivering righty, Goble has become the Mustangs' relief specialist.

Firing nasty sliders, popping fastballs and tempting change-ups as soon as he hit the mound, Goble pitched the remaining four innings for his ninth save. He permitted three hits and one run while striking out three.

I'm loving it, said Goble, who graduated from Phoenix in June, of his newfound fireman role.

You've gotta go in there with a different frame of mind. ... When you start out the game, you know you've gotta set the pace. When you're coming in closing, the game's already set ' all you gotta do is close it.

Now, Medford needs three wins, with one loss to spare, to close out a state title and move on to the Western regionals.

EUGENEMEDFORD

abrhbiabrhbi

Norris ss5012Folsom c4232

Hobie cf4130Heil 2b3122

Fox c3011McArthur ss4231

Nelson 1b2000Skndrick 3b5221

Da. Btler dh3000Tmmrmn cf4111

Boettger ph1000Ulrey rf5132

Brushett lf4110Du. Btler 1b4111

Nance 2b4010Kessler dh4000

Bird rf4110Smith lf4101

Nagler 3b4010

Totals34393Totals37111511

Eugene000020010-3

Medford30014003x-11

E'Hobie, Fox, Nance. LOB ' Eugene 6, Medford 8. DP'Medford 2. 2B ' Norris, Heil, McArthur, Skundrick, Ulrey. S ' Heil. SF ' Timmerman, Heil.

IPHRERBBSO

Eugene

Mascolo L5128713

Dmochowsky2+23321

Brown110000

Medford

Rhodes, W5+62223

Goble, S431103

WP ' Dmochowsky, Rhodes 2, Goble. HBP ' by Rhodes (Nelson). Umpires'Johnson, Snoich, Rice. T'2:25. A ' 1,000 est.

Mustangs first baseman Dustin Butler, right, stretches to complete a double play on a grounder by Eugene?s David Fox in the third inning. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli