Emerson dominant for Mustangs
It was a fitting analogy by the Mustangs pitcher.
A team of horses couldn't have pulled him off the mound.
Neil Emerson gave the Medford Mustangs their second straight dominant pitching performance in a 2-0 victory over Charter Cove of Covina, Calif., Friday in the American Legion AAA Northwest Regional baseball tournament at Harry & David Field.
Emerson pitched a four-hitter, struck out 11 and walked one in running his record to 9-0.
The big right-hander, who played his high school ball at Phoenix before suiting up for Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls this past spring, used a popping fastball that contrasted nicely with his curve and split-finger fastball to befuddle the Southern California team.
Charter Cove got only one base runner in scoring position, that courtesy of a leadoff double in the eighth inning.
Meanwhile, Lewis Sebrell was the heart of everything the Mustangs (42-10) did offensively. The catcher, batting ninth in the order, was the only player in the game to manage two hits and scored both runs.
The second tally came in the sixth inning on a triple by Chris Bradshaw that was absolutely creamed. After Sebrell scored from second base, his chest bumps to teammates were the only thing hit harder than the ball by Bradshaw.
The rest was up to Emerson and the errorless play of his defense.
He went to the mound in the ninth inning, got two quick outs, then walked a batter.
"There was no question I was finishing it," Emerson said with a grin. "They weren't taking me out."
Manager Sandee Kensinger didn't need to be persuaded.
"You see anybody in the bullpen," he asked.
Appropriately, Emerson made the final putout, inducing a nubber to first baseman Garrett Tygerson, who flipped to the pitcher covering the bag.
The victory came on the heels of seven scoreless innings by Jordan Lewis in a 6-1 opening victory Thursday over Lewiston, Idaho.
The Mustangs face Billings, Mont., at 7 tonight in a pivotal matchup of unbeatens. The Billings Scarlets defeated Anchorage, Alaska, 10-2, earlier Friday.
The winner tonight is guaranteed a berth in the championship round Monday, regardless of what happens Sunday.
"We've got some guys who have been around for a while and have taken a leadership role," said Kensinger, who's team won state championships in 2007 and '08 to advance to the regional. "There's not much more I can say. The guys are pretty self-motivated. They're excited, they're playing at home, the crowd's been great. They know what's up.
"We've been in this third game the last two years and haven't been able to get by it."
Matt Maurer will start for the Mustangs.
"Matt thrives on this type of atmosphere," said Kensinger. "He's tough. We're looking for one of his premier performances, and we'd like to have it."
Maurer has a tough act to follow.
Emerson and Charter Cove pitcher Kenny Kissell took turns baffling the opposition.
Medford managed just six hits against Kissell. The first run he gave up was unearned, and he struck out 10 while walking only one.
It was evident both pitchers were in command by the paucity of solidly hit balls and the abundance of dribblers.
"I tip my hat to their pitcher," said Charter Cove coach Jon Garkow, whose team fell to 25-7. "He kept us off balance and fooled us. He threw a great game. My pitcher threw a great game, too. It was a good pitcher's duel. We had to make some plays and we didn't make them. They made every play. That's basically what it came down to."
He referred to the third inning, when Sebrell tapped a soft, two-out grounder that scooted past Kissell. Shortstop Jonah Northrop scooped it and tried to make a throw while stumbling, but it pulled first baseman Matt Ayers off the bag.
A wild pitch allowed Sebrell to second, then Max Gordon blooped a single to shallow left field. Sebrell raced to third and was going to be held up, but left fielder Jake Loefke overran the ball, and Sebrell restarted his engine and raced home.
The throw to the plate was cut off and relayed to first, where Gordon was tagged moments after Sebrell touched home.
Sebrell was at it again in the sixth, lining a single to right-center field. After Gordon laid down a textbook bunt to sacrifice Sebrell to second, Bradshaw ripped his shot to the base of the left-center field wall.
"Amazing," said Sebrell. "He hit the hell out of that ball. I didn't know whether to stop or run. I just decided it was too far, so I took off. I'm not too fast, so I got a head start."
The Californians' biggest threat came when Mark Andrade doubled into the right-field corner to start the eighth. But Emerson bowed his neck, striking out the next two batters and coaxing a flyout to left field to end the threat. Andrade, who had advanced to third on stolen base, was left there.
"I thought, I've just got to shut them out," said Emerson. "I've gotta come out and make it so that runner can't advance."
He did what he did much of the evening.
"I had to come out and throw strikes, establish the (strike) zone and keep it down," he said. "I left a few balls up, and they got hit, but I had a great defense behind me. They did a great job."
Charter Cove coach Garkow wouldn't be surprised if the teams met again.
"I think that's the best team in the tournament, other than us," he said. "I think we've got a good shot to come back and see them later on."
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Loefke lf 4 0 1 0 Gordon cf 3 0 1 0
Surdo 2b 4 0 0 0 Brdshaw 2b 4 0 1 1
Jones cf 4 0 0 0 Earle ss 3 0 0 0
Bailey c 3 0 1 0 Boyd 3b 1 0 0 0
Milan 3b 4 0 0 0 Tygerson 1b 3 0 1 0
Ayers 1b 3 0 1 0 Kendall lf 3 0 0 0
Andrade dh 3 0 1 0 Maurer dh 3 0 1 0
Northrop ss 3 0 0 0 Rolie rf 3 0 0 0
Golia rf 3 0 0 0 Wolfe rf 0 0 0 0
L. Sebrell c 3 2 2 0 Totals 31 0 4 0 Totals 26 2 6 1
California 000 000 000 —0
Medford 001 001 00x —2
E—Loefke. DP—California 1. LOB—California 5, Medford 3. 2B—Andrade, Maurer. 3B—Bradshaw. SB—Andrade. CS—Kendall. S—Andrade.
IP H R ER BB SO
Kissell L 8 6 2 1 1 10
Emerson W 9 4 0 0 1 11
WP—Kissell. HBP—by Kissell (Boyd). Umpires—Home, Kendall Snyder First, John Black Second, Mik Henderson Third, Scott Rice. T—1:58. A—1,250
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org