It may be early in the American Legion baseball season but Medford Mustangs manager Nate Mayben definitely is enjoying the tenacity his squad seems to possess.
One night after falling behind in a big way to the Klamath Falls Falcons before rallying to an 18-14 road victory, the Mustangs kept their composure and pulled off yet another comeback in their home opener Wednesday at Harry & David Field.
This time, Medford erased a 4-0 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning against the visiting Grants Pass Nuggets and went on to secure a 6-4 triumph.
“The one thing we like that we’ve seen is they don’t quit,” Mayben said of his almost entirely new crew. “That’s really nice and that’s hard to do when you have a bunch of new faces. They’re just doing a good job of going inning by inning, competing and playing the game the right way.”
The Mustangs (3-3) will look to save some of their need for heroics at 7 p.m. today when they host Klamath Falls in another nonleague game at Harry & David Field.
“They’re scrappers and they’re fighters and we seem to be the same way so I think it may be one of those games again,” Mayben said of tonight’s matchup.
Medford finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning against Grants Pass (0-1) with a host of two-out hits, including three of the pinch-hit variety.
Cole Carder got things going in the seventh with a leadoff single off Nuggets reliever Tyler Sakraida, followed by a walk to Nick Sanderson. After Sakraida managed two outs, pinch-hitter Travis Danielson provided the first clutch hit for Medford with a two-run double down the right-field line that cut the Mustangs’ deficit in half at 4-2.
“That sparked us a little bit getting that ball to fall right on that line in right field,” said Mayben. “He was ready to go and that’s a tough thing to do to come up in the seventh inning when you haven’t been playing all day and get the ball down for a big two-RBI double.”
Christian Mahoney followed with an RBI double down the third-base line to draw an end to Sakraida’s night, then pinch-hitter Ethan Whitney greeted reliever Erik Moody with a single to put runners on the corners. Pinch-hitter Aaron Hutchinson then smacked a two-run double to right-center field for Medford’s first lead of the game.
“Those were three pinch-hits that worked out for us pretty well,” said Mayben. “They made me look good.”
In the eighth, the Mustangs tacked on an insurance run when Carder singled, moved to second on an error off a grounder by Sanderson and to third on a single by Kasey Buchanan. Carder then scored on a double play turned by the Nuggets for a 6-4 advantage.
Defense saved the day early for Medford, with left fielder Buchanan throwing out GP’s Mike Hults at the plate in the top of the second inning and right fielder Knute Thompson relaying to first baseman Joe Johnson and then to catcher Christian Mahoney for another out at the plate in the top of the third. Mahoney came up throwing to shortstop James Turnbull for a double play amid all the excitement in the third.
“That’s exactly what you’ve got to do, you just throw on line through your cut and you give yourself a chance,” said Mayben, “and luckily they were sending those guys. Those were great defensive plays and kept us in the game.”
Grants Pass managed its first run off Medford starter Sanderson in the fifth when Hults singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Zach Morris.
The Nuggets, who saw starter Brennan Lauffenburger allow only a single by Mahoney in five innings, used a two-run double by Vince Zavolta and RBI single by McKinnon Bennett to build a 4-0 cushion in the top of the seventh off reliever Greyson Wolff.
After his team claimed the lead for him in the bottom of the seventh, Wolff sat down the Nuggets in order to record his first win of the summer with four innings of relief work. Sanderson struck out five and walked five in his five innings, while Wolff had two strikeouts and no walks against four hits allowed.
“Sanderson did a good job of competing and he threw just enough strikes to keep them off-balance,” said Mayben. “That was a good improvement from California so it was good to see that and with Wolff you know what you’re gonna get. He throws strikes and looks for you to get yourself out when he can.”
Lauffenburger, D’Amico (6), Sakraida (7), Moody (7), Ekwall (8) and Morris; Sanderson, Wolff (6) and Mahoney. W — Wolff (1-0). L — Moody (0-1). 2B — GP: Zavolta; M: Danielson, Mahoney, Hutchinson.
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