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Hosts with the most

Mustangs cap impressive run at Miles Field with Legion AAA state title

What will a week of error-free defense, timely hits, proficient pitching and all-around brilliant baseball ' minus one hiccup ' get you?

Well, for the Medford Mustangs, it all amounted to a state championship.

The host Mustangs capped the Boise Cascade American Legion AAA baseball state tournament at Miles Field with a 7-3 victory over the Eugene Challengers on Sunday evening to earn the program's first Oregon title since 1997.

From Day 1, we've told each other we have a chance, said winning pitcher Matt Skundrick, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate in addition to firing a five-hitter. We knew it, and we believed it.

Medford (43-11 overall) posted victories of 11-1 over the Lakeridge Lions on Wednesday, 11-3 over Eugene on Thursday, 11-4 over Roseburg Dr. Stewart's on Friday and lost, 8-1, to Lakeridge on Saturday before Sunday's clinching triumph.

Now, the Mustangs open the Western Regional in Lewiston, Idaho, with a 10 a.m. matchup Thursday against the Anchorage (Alaska) Dimond Lynx. The other two games on Medford's pool-play schedule are with the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Eagles at — p.m. Friday and the host Lewis-Clark (Idaho) Twins at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The top two teams from each four-squad pool advance to the semifinals.

Yolo Post 77 from Woodland, Calif., Food Giant of Bellevue (Wash.), the Helena (Mont.) Senators and the Treasure Valley Stars comprise the other pool. Interestingly enough, Treasure Valley, the Idaho state champion, is from Ontario in Eastern Oregon.

But back to Sunday.

The Challengers (54-14), who took three of four from Medford in winning the Area 4 crown during the regular season, found themselves overmatched by the Mustangs for the second time in four days.

Eugene had to beat Lakeridge, 8-1, earlier Sunday to advance to the championship game and went 4-2 overall in the tournament.

We were ready to play, Challengers head coach Marty Lees said. We've played doubleheaders all summer long.

Eugene, which won a coin flip to serve as the home team, though it still filled the visitors' dugout, showed it was prepared early by building a 3-1 lead through four innings.

After Skundrick's double drove home Rob Folsom to stake Medford to a 1-0 edge in the top of the first, the Challengers nicked Skundrick for a single score in their first, second and fourth frames.

The Mustangs, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically unable to come through on two-out, bases-loaded opportunities in the third and fourth.

But on the first two fifth-inning pitches from Eugene starter Cody Newell, all momentum permanently shifted.

Skundrick led off by drilling the left-handed Newell's initial offering to the right-center gap and motoring to a triple when center fielder Kellen Hobie misplayed the ball.

Newell's next pitch was clobbered over the right-field wall for a two-run, game-tying home run by Brett Timmerman.

Just like that, Medford was in business, and Newell was pulled in favor of right-hander Patrick Cooley.

(Newell) was starting everybody off with a first-pitch fastball, and I knew what was coming, Timmerman said of his sixth homer of the summer. He left it up a little bit, and I got a hold of it, hit it right on the sweet spot.

Definitely, I thought that was the turning point. There was a lot of adrenaline after that.

A pumped-up Skundrick retired the Challengers in order in the fifth to begin a stretch of four straight innings in which he didn't allow a baserunner.

And the Mustangs snatched the lead for good in the sixth.

Folsom started by drawing the third of his three walks, then Ryan Heil and Evan McArthur blooped singles to load the bases.

Skundrick lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Folsom before Timmerman struck out.

Jimmy Ulrey, who flew out to deep center with two outs and the bases jammed in the third, stepped up and produced this time around, driving a double past third baseman Scott Nelson to plate Heil and McArthur.

Down 6-3, Eugene turned to the bullpen again, bringing in lefty Sean Mascolo to replace Cooley.

Mascolo hit Dustin Butler on his second pitch, then struck out Eric Kessler.

Although Mascolo ' who beat Medford twice during the regular season before suffering the Thursday defeat ' went on to allow just Butler's ninth-inning homer in his 31/3 innings of work, the Challengers were finished.

Skundrick, following his better-later-than-sooner mantra, continued to stifle Eugene's bats with his fastball, slider, curveball and change-up arsenal.

David Fox's one-out single in the bottom of the ninth broke up a string of 14 straight retired but only temporarily delayed Skundrick's complete game ' and the Mustangs' first state championship since 1997.

Matt's a fighter, said catcher Folsom, who is a third-year Mustang along with Skundrick and McArthur and went a robust 14-for-20 in the tournament.

He won't give in to anybody ... and he doesn't lose his concentration.

Skundrick, who also tossed a complete game in Medford's opening victory Wednesday, has 11 complete outings in 12 overall starts. He was also 11-for-19 offensively in the tournament.

But for all the great hitting and pitching, the key to the Mustangs' title run may have been a defense that did not commit an error in the five games.

That's unbelievable, said McArthur, who was excellent at shortstop and went 10-for-20 offensively in the tourney. Defense wins games ... and we had the key hits.

We put it all together.

And that wins championships.

EUGENEMEDFORD

abrhbiabrhbi

Norris dh4110Folsom c2210

Hobie cf3000Heil 2b3110

Fox c3011McArthr ss5110

Nelson 3b3110Skndrck p3132

Butler 1b3000Timrmn cf5122

Brushett lf3011Ulrey rf5012

Nance 2b3111Butler 1b4111

Bird rf3000Kessler lf3010

Nagler ss3000Engle lf1000

Smith 3b5010

Totals28353Totals367127

Eugene110100000-3Medford100023001-7

DP'Eugene 1, Medford 1. LOB'Eugene 2, Medford 11. 2B ' E: Norris; M: Skundrick, Ulrey. 3B ' M: Skundrick. HR'E: Nance; M: Du. Butler, Timmerman.

IPHRERBBSO

Eugene

Newell463354

Cooley, L12/3 43311

Mascolo31/3 21102

Medford

Skundrick, W953315

Umpires'Snyder, Ecklund, Rice, Johnson, Snoich, Wansley. T'2:01. A'1,200.

Mustangs players celebrate at home plate as they await the arrival of teammates Matt Skundrick and Brett Timmerman following Timmerman's two-run homer in the fifth inning. Medford went on to claim its first state title since 1997, and ninth overall. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman