Mustangs keep title hopes alive with 12-inning win
Sometimes all you need is a chance.
It didn’t come easy, but the Medford Mustangs earned that opportunity Tuesday at Legion Field in Roseburg.
Still reeling a little from a bitter walk-off win by Eugene Monday night that put their championship hopes in jeopardy, the Mustangs outlasted host Roseburg for a 6-5, 12-inning victory to avoid elimination at the American Legion AAA state tournament.
Tanner Douglas’ walk-off single down the right-field line plated Darin Marsh from second base with the winning run for the Mustangs (44-13) in a battle that lasted just over three hours between the Area 4 foes.
“These guys are tough to beat because they’ve put in the sweat equity and they work hard,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben of his crew. “They weren’t going to let somebody take it easy from them.”
The last word you could use to describe Tuesday’s Day 4 elimination game was easy.
Gut-wrenching, exasperating, thrilling — maybe — but certainly not easy.
Medford scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning to build a 5-1 lead before Roseburg (30-17) ultimately tied the game in the sixth inning and set up a contest of who would blink first over the next six innings.
“That was one of those games where it was a fight all the way through,” said Mayben. “Every pitch felt like it was live-and-die on that pitch, and these guys did a good job of failing and then bouncing back.”
“Those 10 innings with no runs in between, we struggled offensively,” he added, “but it’s a testament to who they are as far as getting after it, putting it behind them and moving on to the next pitch and going out and making plays defensively. We won that game because of our defense, and Zac Ankeny especially. He made some incredible plays for us today.”
Ankeny assisted on all three outs in the top of the 12th, getting a nice dig by Douglas at first base on one relay before leaping into the air to deny a two-out liner potentially heading toward the gap.
In the bottom of the 12th, Cody Borraggine produced a leadoff single but was negated on a fielder’s choice at second base after Marsh was unable to drop down a sacrifice bunt in two attempts.
Atoning for the failed sacrifice, Marsh stole second base with Douglas at the plate, then didn’t hesitate as he rounded third and raced home when Douglas pulled a ball into right field.
The late-inning heroics set up another elimination contest at 10 a.m. Wednesday for the Mustangs against the Hillsboro Barbers (33-10), who edged Eugene 5-3 in Tuesday’s late game. The winner of the morning game will then play Eugene (45-12) at 1 p.m. in a winner-take-all for the state title.
All that really mattered to Mayben after his team’s win was that they would be playing at least one game on the final day of the tournament with a shot at achieving a seventh straight state championship.
“This is where you strive to be all summer long,” said Mayben. “You’re there on the last day. Now it doesn’t really matter who you’re facing, you’ve got to go win. I think these guys will be up for it. Hopefully we can have a little better approach at the plate and put the ball in play, but the games are going to come down to pitching and defense.”
Medford got that in abundance Tuesday, with a special nod to relief pitchers AJ Balsiger and Eli Westrick.
Despite suffering a small bone fracture in his pitching hand 2 1/2 weeks ago, Balsiger allowed one run on one hit with two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings against Roseburg.
Westrick, who has been out for twice as long nursing a sore elbow, did him one better by allowing one run on three hits with six strikeouts and one walk in 6 1/3 innings.
“You’ve got to give Westrick and Balsiger some credit after being two guys that have been hurt and not throwing for a while,” said Mayben. “Doing the job they did on the mound was huge for us.”
Borraggine led a 10-hit attack by going 3-for-6 with one run, while Westrick was 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI and Ankeny had a two-run double to cap off a five-run first inning.
“Those first couple innings felt good,” Mayben said of taking an early advantage, “but (Dr. Stewart’s) changed their game plan completely pitching-wise and we did not help ourselves out at all. We chased a lot of pitches in the dirt and a lot of curveballs on the outside, and then left a lot of fastballs over the plate just taking them. We just did not do a good job of adjusting to that; we’re lucky that we got the pitching and the defensive play that we got today.”
Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s 100 202 000 000 — 5 7 2
Medford Mustangs 500 000 000 001 — 6 10 1
Corbin, Anderson (7), Black (11) and Six; Newmann, Balsiger (4), Westrick (6) and Robbins. W — Westrick (5-0). L — Black. 2B — R: Gillespie, Six 2, Stoffal; M: Ankeny, Marsh, Westrick. 3B — R: Black.
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