Mustangs power past Hillsboro at state tourney
Less than 24 hours after they barely survived a first-round upset bid, the Medford Mustangs made things much less dramatic Sunday in the American Legion AAA state tournament in Roseburg.
Medford scored in each of the first three innings — highlighted by a three-run home run by Jace Miller — and made sure it had an earlier, and easier, day at Legion Field with a 10-0, five-inning win over the Hillsboro Barbers.
Cody Borraggine went the distance on 56 pitches to earn the victory, allowing four hits with three strikeouts in the shutout.
The mercy-rule triumph leaves the Mustangs (43-12) as one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in the upper bracket of the double-elimination state tourney. They will face the other unbeaten, the winner of Sunday’s late game between host Roseburg and Eugene, at 7 p.m. Monday for the right to secure a spot in Wednesday’s championship game.
“That was a huge win for us,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, whose team is in search of its seventh straight state title. “It was also huge for us being able to keep Cody under 60 (pitches) and not waste any other pitchers.”
Medford went late into Saturday night’s game before reaching the scoring column, using four sixth-inning runs to deny the Beaverton Sockeyes in a 4-1 nail-biter.
The Area 4 champion Mustangs managed only three hits in the opener, but that was definitely not the case Sunday.
“It was a little different than yesterday,” Mayben said with a laugh of his team’s 14 hits against Hillsboro. “We hadn’t played a game for five days and you could just tell yesterday. Hitting-wise, our timing and all that just wasn’t quite there, but we got some reps in this morning, took some good (batting practice) this afternoon before the game and just swung it well. I was excited about that.”
Borraggine and Darin Marsh had consecutive singles in the bottom of the first, with Borraggine scoring Medford’s first run on a groundout by Eli Westrick.
A triple by Jeremiah Robbins and ensuing RBI single by Miller pushed the Mustangs’ lead to 2-0, then Medford broke the game open with a four-run third inning.
“It gets that monkey off your back a little bit when you put up a run in the first inning and another one in the second inning,” said Mayben. “It just gives you that confidence at the plate that, OK, today we’ve got it. They just did a great job at the plate being disciplined and not chasing pitches. Hopefully that gets us on a little bit of a run here offensively.”
Marsh led off the third inning with a walk, advanced on a groundout and scored on a single by Westrick. After Robbins drew a two-out walk, Miller supplied the biggest hit of the game with his three-run home run to left-center.
“When he did that, everybody in the dugout just felt like, OK, we’re going to get this one,” said Mayben. “After that it wasn’t such a high-stress situation for everybody and we just started putting balls in play. That ball Jace hit was one of the hardest I’ve seen.”
The Mustangs closed the door on the Barbers (31-10), the Area 2 champions, with another four-run outburst in the fifth inning to enact the 10-run mercy rule.
A single by Westrick and RBI double by Robbins got things moving in the right way, and Miller followed with an RBI single to make it 8-0. After Zac Ankeny drew a walk, consecutive two-out singles by Borraggine, Marsh and Tanner Douglas put an early end to the occasion.
Miller finished 3-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs, while Borraggine was 3-for-4 to complement his stellar pitching performance.
“Cody is one of those guys where when he’s focused, he can get the job done against anyone,” said Mayben, “and we felt this was a perfect situation for him with a few lefties in their lineup. We had a lot of trust in him and he executed phenomenally. He threw a lot of strikes, and that’s all he really needed to do. He used his changeup really well and had these guys off balance all day.”
Borraggine’s day was only four pitches away from being cut short so he didn’t move over the 60-pitch count and become ineligible for a potential return Wednesday. He finished with a flurry, striking out three of the final four batters faced, with the other popping up to his catcher Robbins.
“Being able to save relievers, because you can only have two appearances in a span of three days, was huge for us,” Mayben said of Borraggine’s effort.
Westrick finished 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, while Robbins was 2-for-2 with three runs and one RBI and Marsh went 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Douglas and Josh Baptiste also drove in a run for the Mustangs.
J. Koons, Haght (4), Shemeill (5) and Murphy; Borraggine and Robbins. W — Borraggine (5-4). L — J. Koons. 2B — H: Murphy; M: Robbins. 3B — M: Robbins. HR — M: Miller (5).
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