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Rising Mustangs win big to stay alive

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Outlaws of Kennewick, Washington, are human after all.

After thoroughly manhandling teams through the first three days of the Northwest Regional tournament, Kennewick was given a taste of its own medicine by the Medford Mustangs on Saturday afternoon at Powers Field.

It was the Mustangs (36-21) who lit up the scoreboard, amassing 15 hits spread out over seven innings to hand Kennewick its first loss of the tournament, 17-2.

“We’ve been in a loser-out situation before, so it was just another ball game for us,” Medford skipper Nate Mayben said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting a game like this — we were expecting a dogfight.”

And after avoiding elimination, Medford will face Bellingham, Washington, at noon (Pacific) today to decide who faces Kennewick for a spot in the Legion World Series.

Early on, Kennewick jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on the Oregon state champs, notching single runs in top of both the second and third innings.

And after hanging up a pair of zeroes in the first two frames, Medford finally answered — and then some.

A two-run single from Josh Berman gave the Mustangs the lead, then a three-run home run from Cole Carder gave Medford a lead it never surrendered.

Having been in a similar situation the night before against Billings, Montana — when it trailed 4-1 after three innings — a response from Kennewick was expected.

But relief pitcher Aaron Hutchinson came in and quickly dispelled any notion of a comeback.

Pitching for the first time in more than two months due to a torn rotator cuff, Hutchinson was outstanding for the Mustangs, going 4 2/3 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out three batters as he and the Medford defense kept Kennewick off of the scoreboard for the rest of the afternoon.

“It was definitely a little nerve-wracking, the confidence wasn’t all the way back having not pitched in a while,” Hutchinson said. “I didn’t know if I had the same control or not, and I was definitely worried about the (velocity) coming in, but it seemed like I still had it.

“Once I started hitting spots after I got out of that (third) inning and my team scored some runs, that really let me settle down.”

To some, the call to go to Hutchinson in a game of this magnitude may have seemed questionable. But once Mayben got the word from his strong right-hander that he was ready to go, there was no question about him entering the game.

Hutchinson rewarded that confidence.

“He was feeling good so we threw him out there. He did a heckuva job — better than anyone has done against (Kennewick) in this tournament, obviously,” Mayben said.

Medford didn’t need any more runs after the third but its offense continued to roll, scoring once more in the fourth and pushing across 10 runs in the sixth.

Berman finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs, Christian Mahoney 2-for-4 with two runs, Jordan Ragan 2-for-4 and Tate Cowden 2-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs.

Bellingham — the Washington runner-up — stayed alive with a 13-3, eight-inning win over the Billings (Montana) Scarlets on Saturday.

No matter the opponent, though, Kennewick manager Nate Holdren knows his team can’t afford another performance like it had against Medford.

“That’s baseball: You’re going to have your ups and downs. Luckily we’ve put ourselves in a position to where this loss didn’t hurt us. We’ll go home, get something eat and wake up ready to play nine innings for the World Series,” Holdren said. “I can promise you won’t see the same performance from us (in the championship game).”

Kennewick;011;000;0;—;2;5;2

Medford;006;10(10);x;—;17;15;2

A. Dixon, Garza (6) and G. Dixon; Berman, Hutchinson (3) and Mahoney. W — Hutchinson. L — Dixon. 2B — M: Cowden, Mahoney, Berman, Sanderson. HR — M: Carder.

Medford Mustangs pitcher Aaron Hutchinson delivers on Saturday at Powers Field in Cheyenne, Wyo. HUGH CAREY / WYOMING TRIBUNE EAGLE