Rested Mustangs ready for regional
The Medford Mustangs should be well-rested for their appearance in the American Legion AAA Northwest Regional baseball tournament that begins Wednesday in Lewiston, Idaho.
The Mustangs, fresh off their record sixth straight Oregon championship, face Alaska champion Juneau at 10 a.m. PDT in the first game of the tournament.
Medford (33-23) hasn’t played since downing the Eugene Challengers, 5-4, last Wednesday in the state tournament at Klamath Falls.
“It’s kind of tough,” said manager Nate Mayben. “We’ve had a whole week off. We haven’t had probably more than two or three days off all year between games, so this has been a little weird for us. We practiced a few times and we’ve given the guys time to get squared away before we go on this trip.”
The double-elimination regional runs through Sunday at Harris Field.
Other opening-round games Wednesday pit Bozeman, Montana, against Bellevue, Washington, at 1 p.m.; Casper, Wyoming, against Idaho Falls, Idaho, at 4:30 p.m., and Kennewick, Washington, against Lewiston at 7:30 p.m.
If the Mustangs win, they play the Casper-Idaho Falls winner at 4 p.m. Thursday. If they lose, they play the Casper-Idaho Falls loser at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
All games will be streamed for free on www.koze.com.
The regional winner advances to the World Series Aug. 15-20 in Shelby, North Carolina.
Medford’s previous biggest break between games was three days off prior to the state tournament, where it went 4-1 and averaged 6.6 runs per game.
“I think the excitement of it all, getting to regionals, will keep our energy up,” said Mayben, “and hopefully our timing at the plate and pitching will just stay on track where it is. We’ve got some momentum. It’s just tough with this long of a layoff to keep everything going, probably. We’ll have to get in there and make some adjustments, and hopefully we’ll do that.”
Medford is making its sixth straight regional appearance, while Juneau is making its third straight.
Last year, the Mustangs lost their first two games and were eliminated despite taking two-run leads into the final inning of both games.
Medford has won five regional crowns, the last coming in 2015.
“Our expectations are that we go up and play some good baseball,” said Mayben. “We don’t know these teams very well, and they don’t know us very well. We’ve got to go up and play good baseball and throw strikes, make plays and put the ball in play. That’s kind of our expectation. It’s what we’ve been doing and kind of what got us where we are right now.”
The pitching rotation will be the same as it was for state. Bennett Thompson, Skyler Gaudern and Ricky Boortz are expected to start the first three games, respectively, if the Mustangs get that far. It’s uncertain who will be available after that.
Thompson went the distance in the championship win over Eugene, allowing eight hits, striking out four and walking one. He has a 6-3 record with a 2.18 ERA.
Juneau is a bit of a mystery to Medford.
“All we know is they’re a good program out of Alaska,” said Mayben. “They’ll be excited to be there. They won one game last year, so that probably built some confidence for them. We’re going to have to go at them with our best.”
The only team in the regional that Medford has faced this summer is Lewiston, which defeated the Mustangs, 12-6, at Harry & David Field July 15.
“They can hit the ball,” said Mayben. “I don’t know what we saw from their pitchers, if we saw the better ones or not, but they swung it real well. There’s going to be some good teams there, for sure.”
Gaudern is 7-3 with a 2.75 ERA, and Boortz is 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA.
“I like where our pitching’s at,” said Mayben. “Our pitching is stacked up, and I think it’s the strength of our team right now. Hopefully, it will continue to stay that way.”
Taven Passey leads an offense with eight players batting higher than .300. Passey is at .385, with 31 RBIs and 28 runs. Dylan Marsh leads in home runs with seven and RBIs with 43, while batting .336.
Zac Ankeny (.346) and Darin Marsh (.312) have the most hits at 56 and 54, respectively.
Others with .300-plus averages are Evan McLennan (.365), Ryan Sandoval (.353), Bennett Smith (.331) and Bennett Thompson (.310).
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email@example.com