Mustangs wrap up Chubb Memorial crown
A previously scheduled contest allowed the Medford Mustangs and Salem Withnell Dodgers to finally get in the championship game of the Jim Chubb Memorial Tournament on Saturday, with Medford finding its groove again after a week's worth of struggles.
After losing five of their last six games — allowing double-digit scoring in four games — the Mustangs altered their approach against Salem Withnell to help get back on track and the early results certainly were positive.
Medford got multiple hits from five starters, didn't allow more than two runs in a single inning and kept its errors in check for the most part in earning an 8-4 victory over Salem.
The teams were supposed to meet on July 1 in the tournament championship but poor field conditions from rain kept that from happening. Instead, they agreed to use Saturday's already scheduled nonleague game as the title tilt.
Ashland's Billy Hansen was named the tournament MVP after going 8-for-15 with five RBIs overall, while Klamath Falls' Dylan Smith was named the tourney's top pitcher. The event is named after Jim Chubb, a longtime local umpire who collapsed and died of a heart attack while working a game in 2009. He was 58.
"We came in today and talked about that we had to make some adjustments in our approach to the game," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben. "During pregame today we made some adjustments during batting practice, we made some adjustments during infield-outfield and just how we prepared for the game. I think that rolled over into our intensity level on the baseball field and just wanting to get the job done. I felt like we were prepared and the kids did a good job of getting themselves ready after a night like last night. It was a good bounceback."
Mayben was alluding to a pair of road losses to the Grants Pass Nuggets on Friday that included as many errors as hits (10) and continued a string of games where little seemed to be going right for Medford (19-15).
On Saturday, starting pitcher Colton Westfall was in good control through three shutout innings and every starter but one had at least one hit against the Dodgers. Westfall struck out four, walked two and allowed one hit in his three innings. Charlie Walker helped set the table in the leadoff spot by going 3-for-5 with one run scored, while Taylor Humphrey, Ethan Schlecht, Hansen and Hayden Evans each had two of the Mustangs' 15 hits overall.
"I think we came out fired up and ready to play because of those last two losses and dropping four of our last league games," said Schlecht.
"We have to be a scrappy team like that," added the Ashland product. "I don't think we quite have the talent that we've had in previous years but we've got a lot of solid players that can play the game. If we play the game hard like we did today, we can get a lot of wins."
Evans slapped an RBI double down the left field line to open the scoring after Jessie Hornbrook had drawn a one-out walk in the second inning, then the Ashland connection plus Walker took over in the third to give the Mustangs a 4-0 advantage.
Walker led off the third with a double and Humphrey walked ahead of Schlecht, who laced a single into center field to make it 2-0. Hansen followed with a two-run single to right field to give Medford a four-run cushion.
The Mustangs tacked two more on the board in the fourth when Humphrey put a ball on the chalk in right field for a double and then had an easy trot home after Schlecht connected for his second home run in as many days and team-best third overall. Schlecht, who moved to shortstop Saturday, sent a soaring shot over the left field wall off Salem starter Carson Hannibal for a 6-0 advantage.
"I was running to first so I didn't really see it but it felt good off the bat," said Schlecht, who entered the game with a .362 batting average.
For Mayben, Schlecht's impact at the plate Saturday was certainly no surprise.
"Ethan's been a pretty good spark plug for us in the three-hole," said the second-year manager. "He's been seeing the ball real well and hitting it hard. He hasn't found a lot of holes out there but he continues to battle at the plate. He's one of our toughest outs."
Schlecht registered for his classes at Oregon Tech on Friday and will play for the Owls next season after a steady high school run with the Grizzlies. He's been one of the team's more versatile players, positioned at second base, third base and shortstop, and has thrown three innings of relief pitching. His 35 RBIs trail only Hansen (36) and his 29 runs scored trail only Walker (32), but Schlecht definitely appears to be ramping up for a numbers surge with his play of late.
"I'm just taking my approaches the same way," Schlecht said. "I'm just getting hold of it finally and I'm confident up there. I think that's a big part of baseball, mentally being confident, and I'm really confident right now."
Medford reliever Isaiah Luzny came on in the top of the fourth and allowed a leadoff single by Jake DuFault to snap his string of six consecutive hitless innings. Two walks by the young left-hander created some issues in the fifth, when the Dodgers used RBI singles by Jordan Giza and DuFault to trim their deficit to 6-2.
Salem tacked on another run in the sixth against reliever Steen Fredrickson, one of five pitchers used Saturday as Medford planned to get a lot of players work on the bump, but a pickoff at third base by reserve catcher Eric Wallan helped keep the game at 6-3.
The Mustangs answered with a run in the seventh thanks to a leadoff double by Hansen and RBI single from Hornbrook, while Salem scored an unearned run against Nate Namanny in the eighth after a throwing error, double by Jonathan Patterson and RBI groundout by Sagell Banta.
Medford closed out the scoring in the bottom of the eighth by stringing together consecutive hits from Wallan, Walker and Humphrey, who was one of five Mustangs to plate at least one run.
Salem Withnell 000 021 010 — 4 11 2
Medford Mustangs 013 200 11x — 8 15 2
Hannibal, Albrecht (8) and Coen; Westfall, Luzny (4), Fredrickson (6), Namanny (7), Hoff (9) and Westhelle-Grant, Wallan (4). W — Westfall (4-0). L — Hannibal. 2B — S: Coen, Patterson; M: Evans, Walker, Humphrey, Hansen. HR — M: Schlecht (3).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry