‘Stangs succumb to Eugene rally at state
Only one game separated the Medford Mustangs and Eugene Challengers from who would claim the Area 4 crown this summer.
Only one out kept the Mustangs from maintaining hopes of not letting a great opportunity slip away Monday at the American Legion AAA state tournament.
But while Medford got the better end of the former storyline, it didn’t quite work out in the latter at Legion Field in Roseburg.
With two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning late Monday night, Eugene’s Jaxson Fraser doubled on the first pitch of his at-bat to break a tie in walk-off fashion for a 10-9 win over the Mustangs in a battle of the tournament’s lone unbeatens.
Medford (43-13) had held a 9-2 advantage heading to the bottom of the fifth inning before Eugene (45-11) rallied with eight straight runs to pull off a remarkable comeback in the double-elimination tournament.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to Eugene in that game because they did a great job of fighting and not quitting,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, “because they could've, being down 9-2 at one point. They could've just stopped and they didn’t. I don’t feel like we gave them anything, I feel like they went out and they got it.”
The Challengers secured a spot in Wednesday’s state championship final with the win, making a 3 p.m. clash today against Hillsboro (32-10) a moot point beyond setting the stage for another team to have to beat them twice Wednesday to win state.
The Mustangs, however, were left to battle back with an elimination game at noon today against host Roseburg (30-16), which finished only two games back of Medford in the Area 4 standings for third place.
The winner of that game would play a 10 a.m. Wednesday game against Hillsboro, should it win Tuesday, for the right to face Eugene for the title at 1 p.m. A Challengers win Tuesday would mean the 10 a.m. contest would be the first of two potential championship games due to the double-elimination factor of the tourney.
The Mustangs appeared to be well on their way to victory Monday after Eli Westrick singled home Darin Marsh and then later scored himself on an error to make it 2-0 in the third inning.
Medford broke out with five runs in the fourth after Rowan Amann drew a leadoff walk and then the Mustangs came through with consecutive singles by Cody Borraggine, Marsh, Tanner Douglas, Westrick and Jeremiah Robbins. Another run came home following an error on a ball hit by Jace Miller.
The lead pushed back up to 9-2 in the top of the fifth when Amann and Borraggine each had leadoff singles and were pushed across the plate.
Eugene, however, scored once in the bottom of the fifth, six times in the bottom of the sixth to tie it and then once again in the bottom of the seventh to win going away.
Medford finished with 13 hits to 12 by Eugene, with Borraggine, Marsh, Westrick, Robbins and Miller each posting two hits. Marsh and Westrick added two RBIs.
Fraser and Kayden Sandow each had three RBIs for the Challengers.
Medford Mustangs 002 520 0—9 13 1
Eugene Challengers 000 216 1—10 12 5
Douglas, Zanni (6), Newmann (7) and Robbins; Pierson, Allen (3), Estrella (5), Apker (6) and Woodcook. W — Apker. L — Newmann (7-1). 2B — E: Fraser, Mullens.