Nick Sanderson had every reason to hang his head early under hot conditions Tuesday at North Medford High.
As the Medford Mustangs’ starting pitcher for Game 2 of an Area 4 American Legion AAA doubleheader against Roseburg, very little went Sanderson’s way in the top of the first inning.
He walked four batters, gave up two hits — including a three-run double by Will Reddekopp — and saw an error behind him lead to a 4-0 deficit as Dr. Stewart’s batted through the lineup in the opening frame.
Emulating the state of mind that has carried this version of the Mustangs thus far, however, Sanderson flushed the negativity and responded with an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning to kick-start a Medford rally that eventually resulted in a 14-4, five-inning victory.
Having already secured the opening game by a 7-2 margin thanks to a strong start by Ethan Whitney, the Mustangs (15-8, 3-1 Area 4) stretched their winning streak to six games heading into today’s Area 4 twin bill against Klamath Falls (3-1 Area 4). Roseburg dropped to 0-6 in league play.
“That’s a thing these guys have done good so far,” Mustangs manager Nate Mayben said of not getting caught up in negatives. “We’ve been in that situation before and we don’t seem to press real hard and things don’t get too big for us. We still just kind of play the game. Sometimes you want to get a little bit more energy than they show but they do stay level-headed and we’ve come back from a few deficits this year, so that’s a good sign.”
Sanderson’s double was part of a three-run first inning by Medford that included RBIs by Christian Mahoney and James Turnbull and saw the Mustangs also bat around against Roseburg starter Chris Stone.
Sanderson, an Ashland High product, said the immediate answer was instrumental in restoring his confidence and alleviated any pressure he may have been feeling that the game was on his shoulders. He allowed only two more hits after that, a single in the fourth that was later negated by a double play and a two-out bunt single in the fifth.
Overall, Sanderson allowed four hits with six strikeouts, and all four of his walks came in the first inning. Mayben praised the left-hander for staying mentally strong after his rough opener, while Sanderson said the offensive support of his teammates and some slight target adjustments were key.
“Obviously that first inning I threw a lot of balls,” said Sanderson, “but I felt a lot of those pitches were pretty close in the zone and I knew it was just going to take a slight adjustment and I finally got there. I just came out after that (first inning) with the mentality that I didn’t have my best stuff but I was just going to battle and try to do my best.”
That mentality spread throughout the Mustang lineup and ultimately led to Roseburg’s demise in the fifth inning when Medford scored five runs for the second time in Game 2 (second and fifth) and closed out the contest in style on a three-run, walk-off home run by Cole Carder.
“That was kind of nice because I think we were all ready to get out of here, it was a hot one today,” Mayben said of Carder’s towering shot to left field. “That was nice to put it away like that, especially since we didn’t have to waste any more pitching with another league doubleheader tomorrow.”
Carder finished 3-for-4 with four runs and three RBIs in the leadoff spot, while Sanderson had a pair of RBI doubles, Mahoney was 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI and Turnbull 2-for-3 with one run and four RBIs. Kasey Buchanan also scored twice with one RBI.
“This team has done a great job of whoever it is that gets their number called, they get the job done,” said Sanderson of the 12-hit attack. “It’s not like one or two guys are doing it, it’s everyone collectively getting it done when their name’s called, which is pretty cool to see.”
The same held true in the opener as Medford built a 5-0 lead through three innings to support Whitney, who went 6⅔ innings before handing off to Will Weaver. Whitney struck out seven, hit two batters, walked five (three in the seventh) and allowed three hits.
Josh Berman supplied a key two-run double in the third inning of Game 1, while Greyson Wolff was 2-for-2 with two runs, Tate Cowden and Sanderson each went 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI, Carder was 1-for-3 with two runs and Turnbull 1-for-3 with one RBI.
“The last six, seven, eight games we’ve been hitting the ball really well,” said Mayben, “putting the ball hard on the ground — especially here where it’s fast — and it was to our advantage today.”
Of particular importance, however, has been the Mustangs’ ability thus far to come through with runners in scoring position.
“The thing we’ve been doing well is we haven’t left a lot of guys on base this year,” added Mayben. “We haven’t been in that situation where it seems like we’re going through strings of just leaving guys on base. When we get there we always seem to get a big knock by anybody in the order. We’re getting good production all the way through the lineup.”
Reddekopp, Benzel (6) and Te. Jacks; Whitney, Weaver (7) and Wolff. W — Whitney. L — Reddekopp. 2B — M: Cowden, Berman.
Stone, Gray (3) and Te. Jacks, Ghasedi (3); Sanderson and Mahoney. W — Sanderson. L — Stone. 2B — R: Reddekopp, M: Sanderson 2, Turnbull. HR — M: Carder (2).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry