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Mustangs clinch spot in state title game

GRANTS PASS — Whatever piece of the puzzle that seems necessary to secure a victory, the Medford Mustangs simply seem to be coming up with it at the most opportune time these days.

Whether it's been lockdown pitching or timely hitting or anything in between, the Mustangs have gone on a tear in recent weeks.

On Friday night, it was all the above for Medford as it played one of its most complete games of the season — much to the chagrin of the Corvallis Gerding Builders — to secure a spot in Sunday's championship game of the American Legion AAA state tournament.

Carter Glick handcuffed Corvallis for 61/3 innings and then was supported by pitching mates Isaiah Luzny and Cody Coggins to supply the defense, and Josh Berman played the role of offensive catalyst in leading Medford to a 4-2 triumph over Corvallis at Agnew-Lytle Field.

As the only unbeaten team left in the eight-team tournament, the Mustangs (30-13) are automatically ensured a spot in the state championship. Should Medford win tonight in a 7 p.m. game against the Eugene Challengers, the Mustangs would have to be beaten twice on Sunday by the winner of today's 4 p.m. matchup between Corvallis and the Portland Eastside Barbers. A Medford loss means the first-game winner and Eugene would square off on Sunday for the right to play the Mustangs in a winner-take-all contest later that day.

"It does secure a spot for us but it's nice to go into Sunday knowing that you have to be beaten twice," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, "so we've got to go get (today's) game. It's important for us."

Mayben gave particular credit to the pitching staff on Friday after another standout effort. Glick scattered five hits with four strikeouts before exiting with one out in the seventh inning, and Luzny allowed one hit and one run over 12/3 innings before giving way to Coggins for a perfect ninth inning.

"Our pitching's been phenomenal all tournament — all year really — so that's what we're riding right now," he said. "We couldn't ask for more from Glick after pitching about 40 pitches (Thursday) in two innings and then coming out today and going a good, solid six innings. If it weren't for that ball that got past (catcher Austin Zavala) they probably wouldn't have scored that run against Luzny, and then Cody's been just nails for us the last three days."

For all their combined heroics, it was Berman's night to shine for Medford against Corvallis. His towering two-run home run off the foul pole in the bottom of the fourth inning snapped a 1-all tie and further energized his Mustang teammates.

"It was opportune, really," the Medford third baseman said of his third HR of the summer. "I got kinda lucky by hitting the foul pole. It could've gone foul and who knows what happens in that at-bat. It was definitely a good feeling and really exciting to see my team get up and feed off it and keep playing well."

David Crofton had led off the fourth inning with a single off Corvallis starter Dylan Miller and when Berman followed through his swing he held the bat a few seconds and stared for what seemed like an eternity as the ball soared down the left field line.

"I hit two foul balls earlier in the week and I was just thinking I've got to get one fair," he said. "When I hit that I wasn't trying to showboat or anything, I was just more thinking, 'Please stay fair,' because I didn't know if it was going to go foul or not. It kinda looked bad and I didn't mean for that at all, but it was very close."

Corvallis trimmed its deficit to 3-2 with a run in the top of the eighth before Berman again came through for the Mustangs, answering with an RBI single of his own in the bottom of the frame to plate Bryce Rogan, who had walked to lead off the inning against reliever Ben Doran.

"To have a guy down in your seven hole be able come through with that home run and some big RBIs in this game, you've just gotta love it," Mayben said of Berman, an incoming senior at North Medford High. "It just shows the kind of team and depth that we have."

Medford opened the scoring in the first inning when Christian Gillis dropped a leadoff double down the right field line and scored with one out on a single by Zavala.

Getting that early lead, and being able to answer Corvallis each time, was important, according to Berman.

"We knew what we were playing for — we were playing to get into the championship final — so that game was huge for us," said the third baseman. "Luckily we played well and came out on top."

In Friday's other action, the Portland Eastside Barbers eliminated Salem Withnell Dodgers with an 11-5 victory, while Eugene eliminated the DeMarini Dirtbags of Dallas by the same score.

The Mustangs and Challengers are very familiar with each other, making tonight's matchup an intriguing one.

"They're a very good team and we know we're a good team," said Berman, "so we'll go out and compete and hopefully we'll come out on top."

Corvallis 001 000 010 — 2 6 0

Medford 100 200 01x — 4 9 0

Miller, Doran (7) and Liner; Glick, Luzny (7), Coggins (9) and Zavala. W — Glick (3-1). L — Miller. S — Coggins 4. 2B — C: Reynolds; M: Gillis. HR — M: Berman (3).

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry