Mustangs can’t catch break in opener
To sum it up, Medford Mustangs manager Nate Mayben called Wednesday’s opening game at the American Legion AAA Northwest Regionals “the weirdest game I’ve ever been a part of.”
And for good reason.
Medford had its winning streak halted at seven games and was held scoreless for the first time all summer in falling 10-0 in seven innings to Wyoming state champion Cheyenne Post 6 at Ogren Park in Missoula, Montana.
The game allowed the Sixers (52-19) to avenge losses to Medford in the past two regional tournaments and dropped the Mustangs (36-11-1) into the bottom half of the bracket where they will face either tournament host Bozeman, Montana, or Mid-Pacific Institute of Hawaii in an elimination game at 11:30 a.m. PDT Thursday.
“It was one of those games where you just felt like you did everything you could do,” said Mayben, “it’s just the ball wasn’t going to go our way today.”
Medford had two batters reach base in the second and third innings but found those scoring opportunities negated on double plays by Cheyenne.
The first double play was set in motion when Sixers second baseman Nico Vite soared and reached to his limit to nab a line drive by Ryan Lorenz and then double off the runner at second base. The second double play came on a hit-and-run liner to the gap by Tate Cowden that was tracked down by center fielder Braxton Inniss in left-center and allowed no time for the advancing runners to get back safely.
“We just didn’t get anything to go our way, especially when we hit into those two line drive double plays,” said Mayben. “The one on the hit and run there was nothing we could do there and on the other one everyone thought that ball was in the hole and going to be down without a problem.”
It wasn’t just on the offensive end where the Mustangs couldn’t catch a break.
In the sixth inning, Cheyenne had runners in scoring position with two outs but appeared destined to go scoreless on a routine grounder to Cowden at second base but the ball took a bad hop and bounced over the fielder’s head for a two-run single.
“It was just weird stuff that happened over and over again,” said Mayben. “We didn’t make any errors and we hit the ball hard with (seven) hits, we just didn’t score anybody. It seemed like we’d get something going and it would get shut down really quick with those double plays or whatever.”
“It felt like we actually pitched better than they did and hit better than they did but just didn’t get anything to show for it,” he added. “I don’t know, it was just weird.”
Cole Carder’s double and an ensuing single and stolen base by Joe Johnson set the Mustangs up in the second inning, and a single by James Turnbull and error on Jacob Melton’s roller toward third base put them in position in the third.
Nick Sanderson was hit by a pitch and Berry Hunt singled in the fourth, but Medford couldn’t advance either. In the sixth, Cowden singled and Hunt walked before being stranded. In what would be Medford’s final at-bat, Kasey Buchanan supplied a one-out pinch-hit single and Turnbull was hit by a pitch but were also stranded on base.
Ethan Whitney took the loss despite striking out five with no walks in 4⅔ innings. He allowed five hits and three runs (two earned). Whitney was pulled at 75 pitches to allow him a chance to return later in the tournament should the Mustangs stave off elimination beginning Thursday.
After the game, Mayben remained upbeat about his team’s chances moving forward.
“I just told them sometimes these things happen in the game of baseball,” Mayben said of his post-game comments to his players. “We’d won seven games in a row and things had been really bouncing our way as well and you just run into those kind of games. But it’s not like we don’t believe we have a chance to still make a run at this thing. We’re a good ballclub. As long as we don’t get down on ourselves I’m confident we can still make a run at it.”
Whitney, Baptiste (5), Edwards (7) and Little, Turnbull (6); Brooks and Hastings. W — Brooks. L — Whitney (5-2). 2B — M: Carder; C: Carson. HR — C: Inniss.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry