Mustangs getting hot at right time
Medford put itself within one victory of a berth in the American Legion AAA state tournament with another solid outing on Saturday at the Salem Super Regionals at West Salem High.
Left-handed pitcher Nate Namanny tossed a complete-game two-hitter and the Mustangs broke the game open with six runs in the eighth to topple host Salem Post 20, 10-0, in a game that went only eight innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Medford (26-19) will have up to two chances at locking up a spot in the state tournament today by virtue of its 2-0 record in the super regionals. The Mustangs will face Salem Post 20 in a 1 p.m. championship game today. If Medford loses that game, it will still have a second chance with a rematch later today due to the double-elimination format. Salem Post 20 earned its spot in today's championship with a late 24-11 win over the Columbia Gorge Hustlers on Saturday.
"This next game is so important for us," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben. "We've 10-runned both teams already and they're not going to be very happy or laying down for us by any means. Hopefully we keep the same approach, that the game we're playing is the most important we've played all year."
"We can't take anybody lightly," he added. "We haven't proved we can beat anyone yet by just showing up. Hopefully guys have the right mentality and can take care of this in that first game. If not, hopefully they'll be able to bounce right back for that second game and get it done."
Namanny was in control from the outset, retiring the first 11 batters and finishing with seven strikeouts and only two walks on 106 pitches. One free pass was erased on a double play and the other player to walk was stranded. Namanny also retired the final five batters faced to improve to 4-4, while Medford played error-free ball in support of its pitcher for the second straight day.
"Nate was outstanding," said Mayben. "He had control of all three pitches, his curveball and changeup were really good and he was able to get his fastball inside and located it really well. He's just continued to be a solid contributor on the mound for us; all through this year he's done an excellent job."
The Mustangs opened the scoring with a three-run fourth inning, with Taren Bradd reaching on a leadoff walk and Ryan Wellock safe after his sacrifice bunt was thrown into center field. Bradd later scored on another errant throw, Charlie Walker added an RBI single and a third run scored on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Humphrey.
Medford pushed its cushion to four runs with a solo home run by Billy Hansen — his third — in the fifth.
The Mustangs boosted their lead to 10-0 in the eighth thanks to six hits in the six-run frame. Walker had one of four doubles in the inning, with three straight doubles by Ethan Schlecht, Hansen and Jessie Hornbrook following a single by Humphrey.
"Today was a really good day for us," said Mayben. "We finally started putting some things together offensively and the last two days our defense has been perfect. We've had decent pitching all year and that's continuing and we're starting to piece things together and hopefully can get on a roll."
Hansen went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs to lead the charge, with Walker going 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI and Humphrey 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs. Hornbrook and Wellock each also added two hits, one run and one RBI in the 11-hit attack.
"Hopefully we're starting to come out of our slump a little bit," added Mayben. "We're seeing the baseball better and our approaches at the plate are getting better. Guys are also wanting to be that guy at the plate right now and that's what you want. We had some guys who really stepped up for us today."
The upcoming state tournament will be played at the Concordia University field in Portland.
Medford Mustangs 000 310 06 — 10 11 0
Salem Post 20 000 000 00 — 0 2 4
Namanny and Westhelle-Grant; Peterson, Holley (8) and Rice. W — Namanny (4-4). L — Peterson. 2B — M: Hornbrook 2, Hansen, Schlecht, Walker; S: Cutsforth. HR — M: Hansen (3).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry