Eugene pins first tourney loss on Medford
Having already sewn up a spot in today's championship game, the Medford Mustangs opted to get some valuable experience for their younger players Saturday at the American Legion AAA state tournament in Portland.
Colton Westfall, Isaiah Luzny and Steen Fredrickson each got called to the pitcher's mound in their first summer with the Mustangs and fared fairly well against a talented Eugene Challengers team that was determined to stave off elimination in the eight-team event.
The Challengers, who finished three games ahead of the Mustangs in the Area 4 standings, got the timely hits Medford had been getting in the tournament to remain in title contention with a 7-4 victory at Concordia University.
Eugene will square off with the Salem Withnell Dodgers, a 14-4 winner over the Corvallis Gerding Builders, at noon today for the right to face the Mustangs (30-21) in the winner-take-all championship at 3:30 p.m.
"We didn't get those timely hits we got those last three games and Eugene did," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben. "They scored a bunch of their runs with two outs and we left nine guys on base. We had our chances but the ball didn't fall for us."
Mayben said Saturday's game carried a lot of positives for his team despite the loss, most notably in getting some rest for a few regulars and playing time for their young reserves.
"We got some good mileage out of those younger pitchers and got them some big-game experience, too," he said. "We wanted to get the win but we wanted to get some rest, too. I thought our guys battled. That Eugene team's a real good team and they hit the baseball really well."
Westfall (North Medford) and Fredrickson (Ashland) wrapped up their freshman seasons at the high school level a couple months ago, while Luzny was a standout sophomore on Cascade Christian's state championship team.
Westfall pitched the first 42/3 innings, striking out seven with five walks and six hits, and left with a 3-0 deficit. Luzny allowed four runs — two earned — before handing the ball to Fredrickson, who allowed only three hits and no runs in 21/3 innings.
"Eugene's a really good ballclub and we knew that going in," said Mayben. "We also knew we were going to have to save some pitching (for today's championship) and I thought they did a pretty good job. They struck out 11 combined, Eugene just came up with the right knocks at the right times."
Medford cut into a 6-0 deficit with a run in the sixth when leadoff singles by Ethan Schlecht and Billy Hansen set the stage for an RBI groundout by Nate Namanny.
The Mustangs trailed 7-1 heading into the ninth inning before conjuring up some more of their last-gasp magic.
Namanny singled, Ryan Wellock was hit by a pitch and Eric Wallan reached on an error to load the bases with no outs in the ninth. Evan Westhelle-Grant followed with an RBI single before Eugene induced a pair of short flyball outs. Schlecht managed a two-run single to left field before Hansen's soft liner finally put an end to the rally and pinned the first tournament loss on Medford.
Schlecht finished 2-for-4 with one run and two RBIs, while Charlie Walker had his 20-game hitting streak snapped with an 0-for-4 outing.
"I don't feel like our guys ever gave up the entire game," said Mayben. "We only struck out three times so they did a good job of putting the ball in play, we just didn't find any holes."
Eugene Challengers 102 003 100 — 7 13 3
Medford Mustangs 000 001 003 — 4 6 1
Eyster, Boggs (9), Woods (9) and McDaniel; Westfall, Luzny (5), Fredrickson (7) and Wallan. W — Eyster. L — Westfall (5-2). 2B — E: Schindler, Harpole. 3B — E: Land, Long.
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