Mustangs fall short of 12th state title
After gutting out four straight elimination games to reach Sunday's championship game, the fatigued arms of a depleted pitching staff finally caught up to the Medford Mustangs, spelling the end of their sensational season and run in the American Legion AAA state tournament in Eugene.
After trouncing the Portland Barbers in their first game of the day, the Mustangs faced a familiar and proven opponent in the Salem Withnell Dodgers, a squad which had been a thorn in Medford's side in the tournament.
The Dodgers used Ryan Thompson, a newly acquired and fresh right-hander, to keep the Mustang bats at bay and help Salem Withnell seize the state crown with a 9-5 victory at Swede Johnson Stadium.
The Mustangs, who finished the season 38-12, were seeking their record-setting 12th state championship and a trip to the Northwest Regional Tournament later this month in Montana. It was also a record sixth straight title game appearance for the Mustangs.
In his first start, Thompson handed the Mustangs a crucial defeat to start the tournament.
Although Thompson allowed five earned runs on seven hits and a walk, he went all nine innings and struck out eight.
His large frame accompanied with an awkward sidearm delivery kept the Mustangs uncharacteristically off balance. Aside from a four-run eighth inning, Medford was unable to keep up with Thompson and the Dodgers, who won their fourth state title, the first in eight years since posting back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.
"We lost to them on Wednesday so we had to plow through Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get back to the championship game," said Mustangs general manager Don Schneider. "We just really didn't have enough pitching. That was our problem. We hit the ball well, but that was our problem."
The Mustangs held a 1-0 lead until allowing three runs in the fourth inning, when the Dodgers (28-22) were finally able to get to Michael Bradshaw. The right-hander had pitched three straight scoreless innings to open the game.
The Dodgers inflated their advantage to 4-1 with another run in the bottom of the fifth, and after Bradshaw was lifted for reliever Travis Cash, Salem scored three more in the seventh to make it 7-1.
But the Mustangs began to get off the floor with one last run.
In the top of the eighth, Billy Hansen led off with a walk and Justin Bohn and Ethan Schlecht followed with singles to load the bases.
Colin Sowers smashed a fly ball to deep center field that plated Hansen on the sacrifice. Jessie Hornbrook grounded into a fielder's choice, which scored Bohn. Seth Brown capped the frame with a two-run home run to slice Salem's lead to 7-5.
But the Dodgers dashed the Mustangs' comeback hopes by posting two more runs in the bottom of the frame.
After the game, Sowers was awarded the American Legion Scholarship, given to a chosen student who excels in school and on the baseball field. It was the second year in a row a Mustang has been dubbed with the honor. Last year Nick Hall was the winner.
Brown finished the tournament going 16-for-31 with nine runs scored and 12 RBIs in just six games.
In the semifinal, the Mustangs staved off elimination once again, pinning a 16-5 defeat on the Portland Barbers.
The Mustangs reeled off 22 hits led by Schlecht and Brown.
Schlecht finished 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored and two RBIs. Brown finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Bohn went 3-for-3 and drove in two, Hansen was 3-for-5, crossed home plate three times and drove in another. Sowers, Hornbrook, Lucas Stone and Kameron Kaufman all had two hits apiece. Sowers also drove in two and scored twice.
Nate Namanny earned the victory, pitching 21/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts. In the fifth he replaced Brady Thomas, who was in line for the victory and pitching well until the Barbers began to find their rhythm against him, reeling off a single, double and home run in the inning. His pitch count was also up to 71 after throwing 116 pitches on Thursday.
The Mustangs broke it open in the fourth and fifth innings, putting up six runs in the fourth on seven hits and eight runs in the fifth on eight hits and a walk.
The Mustangs brought 11 batters to the plate in the fourth inning and 12 in the fifth. The big blow in the fifth was a two-run double by Brown.
The Barbers' Vance Downey hit two home runs.
Medford 010 680 1 — 16 22 0
Portland 000 230 0 — 5 10 2
Thomas, Namanny (5) and Sowers; Childs, Parfach (5), Downey (6) and Farmer, Weaver (5). W — Namanny (5-2). L — Childs. 2B — M: Schlecht 2, Hansen, Stone, Brown, Sowers. HR — P: Downey 2.
Medford 001 000 040 — 5 7 1
Salem Withnell 000 310 32x — 9 14 1
Bradshaw, Cash (6), Morrison (7), Kaufman (8) and Sowers; Thompson and Ferguson. W — Thompson. L — Bradshaw (4-3). 2B — S: Koon. 3B — M: Kaufman. HR — M: Brown; S: Ferguson.