Better late than never
It took some time but the Medford Mustangs were finally able to show their true colors Wednesday night in American Legion baseball at Harry & David Field.
Medford struggled through the better part of four innings against Salem Post 9 before finally rallying with nine runs over the fifth and sixth innings to score a 9-6 triumph in the opening game of a nonleague twin bill.
Amazingly, all nine runs were plated with two outs already gone in the inning.
"We've been doing that quite a bit, getting off to a slow start and kinda getting behind," said Mustangs shortstop Justin Bohn, "but then our bats get going. We can't keep doing that. Close games are going to kill us."
The Mustangs (24-7) broke open the nightcap with a three-run home run by Cody James in a five-run fourth inning and went on to sweep the doubleheader with a 10-3 win.
Jessie Hornbrook extended his hitting streak to 24 games and Seth Brown improved to 17 straight games of reaching safely and 29 of 31 this season to highlight the doubleheader for Medford.
The Mustangs next return to H&D for a key twin bill on Saturday against the league-leading Eugene Challengers, who are undefeated in Area 4 play and swept second-place Medford earlier this season.
Salem Post 9 (16-12) opened a 4-0 lead through four innings in Game 1, with starting pitcher Austin Bergman needing only 45 pitches to get that far before taking a step back in the fifth by allowing three runs on three hits.
Hornbrook's two-out single plated Billy Hansen, who walked to open the fifth. After Brown walked to load the bases, Cody James supplied a two-run single to right field to plate Brent Hegdahl and Hornbrook to pull Medford within 4-3.
With runners at the corners and No. 5 hitter Kameron Kaufman at the plate, however, catcher Colby Rice was able to pickoff James at first base for the inning-ending out.
The Highwaymen answered back with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth on a two-run single by Sean Curry to take a 6-3 advantage, but there was no denying Medford in the bottom half of the frame.
Kaufman signaled a potential big inning with a leadoff double — only the second extra-base hit of the game — and moved to third on a groundout by Ethan Schlecht. After Hansen walked, Hegdahl hit into a fielder's choice out at second that allowed Kaufman to score.
With two outs and his team still trailing 6-4, Bohn seemed to energize the squad with an RBI triple down the right field line that eluded a diving effort by Dan Zachary. Buoyed by that big hit, the Mustangs followed with three straight RBI doubles by Colin Sowers, Hornbrook and Brown to take their first lead of the contest.
"That was a big triple," Mustangs manager Nate Mayben said of Bohn's second extra-base hit of the opener. "That big knock put us over the top. It got us going, no doubt."
For his part, Bohn said his focus during his third at-bat was simple.
"I just put a swing on it and it went," he said. "It kinda tailed a little bit and the wind helped. Everybody started hitting after that and really came through, it was awesome."
James walked after Brown's double to put an end to the night for reliever Lucas Nornes after only two-thirds of an inning. Kaufman then took the first pitch from reliever Cody Allison to right field for an RBI single to push Medford's lead to 9-6.
Bohn came on to pitch a scoreless seventh inning to earn his first save of the summer.
The late start to action gave Mayben cause for concern early against a Salem Post 9 team that he certainly carried a lot of respect for after serving as the team's assistant coach over the past three years.
"I was waiting for it but then it got to the fifth inning and I was wondering if this was going to be one of those games where nothing falls for you," Mayben said of a potential breakout inning. "(Bergman) did a good job for four innings and then we started having better pitch selection and everything just took off from there."
The second game provided a more consistent offensive effort, as well as an unusual opening to Medford's scoring as James wound up with a two-run groundout to second base thanks to the hustling efforts of Hornbrook, who never stopped running from second.
James finished with five RBIs thanks to his three-run blast in the fourth, while Hornbrook was 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs in Game 2 and 5-for-8 with four runs and five RBIs overall. Thanks to a leadoff triple in the sixth, Brown finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored to notch his seventh consecutive multi-hit game after also going 2-for-3 in the opener.
Salem Post 9 202 002 0 — 6 11 0
Medford Mustangs 000 036 x — 9 11 1
Bergman, Nornes (6), Allison (6) and Rice; Stone, Bradshaw (3), Herrera (5), Bohn (7) and Kaufman. W — Herrera (4-0). L — Nornes. S — Bohn (1). 2B — M: Bohn, Kaufman, Sowers, Hornbrook, Brown. 3B — M: Bohn.
Salem Post 9 201 000 0 — 3 8 0
Medford Mustangs 310 501 x — 10 12 0
Peterson, Fowler (4), Pelley (6) and Cutsforth; Morrison, Anderson (5), Cash (6), Namanny (7) and Kaufman. W — Morrison (2-1). L — Peterson. 2B — S: Groat, Fleming; M: Bohn, Hornbrook 2. HR — M: James (3).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry or on Facebook.