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Corvallis comes in on high note after winning state

Corvallis Richey's Market proved it belonged when it hosted — and won — the American Legion AAA state tournament last week.

Now it aims to prove its mettle again.

Corvallis received an automatic berth to state as the host, then captured its first Oregon championship since 2003 when it defeated two-time defending champion Medford, 6-2, on Sunday.

"Rather than just being given a berth to state, we wanted to earn our way in," says Kirk Myrold, the Marketmen's third-year head coach. "We did that. Our secondary goal was to win the state championship, and we did that as well, so we're pleased to be able to achieve a couple of goals."

Now it's time for the Northwest Regional, and Corvallis (32-17) is primed for another run.

Richey's Market opens the double-elimination tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday against Billings, Mont., at Harry & David Field.

"I think we surprised a few teams at the state tournament," says Myrold, who played four years for Richey's Market in the late 1990s before serving as an assistant coach from 2002-06. "Going into the regional, we're all healthy and playing probably the best baseball we've played all summer. I think we can expect to go in there and play our best ball and hopefully come away with some wins. It's nice to have it in state and not have to travel too far. And we know the environment, having played at the field."

Corvallis has locked horns with Medford six times this season, including three times in last week's state tourney. Richey's Market is 2-4 against the Mustangs, one of the losses coming in the Best in the West Challenge at Harry & David by a 13-3 count in five innings.

At state, Corvallis downed Medford, 5-2, on Day 3. Two days later, on championship Sunday, the Mustangs had to beat the Marketmen twice to claim their third consecutive crown. Medford won 7-0, then suffered the Game 2 loss.

"Being able to knock off the two-time defending state champion, that wasn't easy," says Myrold. "I'm very happy and excited to win that. And I'm proud of the players, who struggled through the heat and grind of playing six games in five days."

Corvallis brings in a team that relies on its pitchers to throw strikes, its defense to make plays and its hitters to come through in the clutch.

All the starters are hitting near or above .300, and in the state tournament, the defense played near-errorless ball in the final five games.

Aaron Corwin and Ryan Hansen are the go-to guys on the mound. Corwin won the first and last games at state, getting relief help from Hansen in the championship game.

Corwin (6-0, 2.45 ERA) uses a fastball in the upper 80s and comes back with a tricky slider that induces a lot of ground balls. He'll play next year at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif.

The left-handed Hansen (7-1, 2.70) is a first-year player from Santiam Christian, a small private school near Corvallis. He pitched a complete-game shutout in the second game at state, beating the Salem Withnell Dodgers, 1-0.

"He's been a surprise for us through the summer," says Myrold.

Hansen is a fan favorite, says the manager, because he's outgoing and excitable.

"On the mound you'll see him do stuff," says Myrold. "The fans will get a kick out of watching him."

Offensively, Thomas McCarthy and Nathan Williams are the heart of the order.

McCarthy broke a bundle of freshman records last spring while playing for Western Oregon University. His batting average of .461 topped the 19-team West Region and ranked 11th in NCAA Division II. He had hitting streaks of 12 and 13 games.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is batting .432 for the Marketmen and has four home runs and 51 RBIs. He drives the ball to all fields and plays a mean first base, says Myrold.

Williams, who is 6-1, 220, is the clean-up hitter and shortstop. He's batting .393, with nine homers and 66 RBIs. Like McCarthy, he's been in the program four years and is coming off a freshman season of junior college ball in Cisco, Texas.

"He's come up with clutch hits throughout the season," says Myrold.

Corwin plays second base or designated hitter when he's not pitching and leads off.

"We have speed at the top and bottom of our lineup, so we're able to manufacture runs if we need to," says Myrold. "But we have a little pop, too."

Richey's Market is playing well, but Myrold knows there's a tough road ahead.

"All these other teams won state for a reason," he says. "They're going to be good teams, just like we are. We aren't going to overlook anybody."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com