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Legacy on display at Coach K Memorial

Tournament has fitting field to honor ex-Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger

In the fifth year of its existence, the 2022 Coach K Memorial is exactly the kind of baseball tournament Sandee Kensinger would have enjoyed competing in.

Never one to shy away from a challenge — or an opportunity to be surrounded by quality players and coaches — Kensinger would have looked at the field, given a wry smile and then gone about propping up his team to become the one standing tall at the final bell.

This year’s tournament begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, with 10 American Legion AAA teams competing at North Medford High School and Harry & David Field to honor the legacy of the former Medford Mustangs manager who died suddenly in 2017 at age 59.

“I’m excited about the teams we’ve got coming in,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, who played for and coached with Kensinger and helped create the Coach K Memorial. “They’re all legion programs, which is great, and they’re all really good programs, storied programs.”

Medford (10-2) kicks off the four-day event at noon Thursday with a game against the Chico Nuts at North Medford High, then returns at 6 p.m. to face the Reno Knights.

Cost of a day pass is $5 for ages 19 and over, and $3 for ages 10-18 and seniors 60 and over.

Military veterans and kids are admitted free of charge. No food or drinks are allowed to be brought into the facilities.

On Friday, the Mustangs play the Salem Withnell Dodgers at 7 p.m. at Harry & David Field. Medford wraps up divisional play in the tourney at 7 p.m. at H&D against the Idaho Falls Bandits, who are the two-time reigning World Series champions, before facing a to-be-determined opponent in Sunday’s placement rounds.

“That’s a really neat opportunity,” Mayben said of facing Idaho Falls. “They’re a good ballclub and a good organization.”

The opposite five-team division includes the Las Vegas Aces, Fairfield Expos, Humboldt Eagles, Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s and the Klamath Falls Falcons.

“It’s going to be a tough tournament,” said Mayben. “A lot of good competition and a lot of programs who have been to the regionals and World Series.”

All in all, exactly the right way to honor Kensinger’s proud history and what he meant to the local baseball community.

Kensinger retired just three games shy of managing his 1,000th game for the Mustangs prior to the 2011 season, when Mayben took over. His career record was 758-239, for a winning percentage of .760 over 19 seasons. He stepped down for two seasons, 2001-02, for personal reasons but served as an assistant to Brent Watts.

Under Kensinger, the Mustangs made it to the American Legion World Series three times (1992, 1997 and 2009), placing as high as second in ‘97 and ‘09. They also went in 2002. The Mustangs captured seven of their 17 state championships with Kensinger at the helm.

“Coach K meant a lot to this program and meant a lot to the players that came through and played for him both at North and for the Mustang program,” said Mayben, whose bid for a seventh straight state title dating back to 2014 came to an end in the championship finale last summer.

“This is just a way to kind of keep his name alive and who he was and what he did for kids for so many years here,” added Mayben. “He was a big part of the baseball community for years, and we just want to continue to remember him.”

Helping spur the Mustang attack this summer has been a solid foundation of returning players in Tanner Douglas, Cody Borraggine, Jace Miller, Aiden Horsley and Jeremiah Robbins.

Douglas has again proven to be one of Medford’s top offensive producers with a .462 batting average to go with 16 runs and 14 RBIs, while Horsley leads the team with a .487 batting average and has contributed 14 runs and 14 RBIs.

Borraggine is the lone regular returning from college and has not skipped a beat in batting .429 with 14 runs and 11 RBIs. Miller (.414, 12 runs, 13 RBIs) and Robbins (.379, six runs, 11 RBIs) have also been pivotal.

The Mustangs have also enjoyed a good jolt from newcomers like Cameron Sewell, Owen Thompson, Triston Wallace, Beau Aldrich and Julius Bolstad.

Sewell is batting .326 with 17 runs and 12 RBIs, while Wallace is hitting .333. Thompson has played a key role on offense, batting .308 with 10 RBIs, and posted a 3-0 pitching record with a 1.17 ERA. Aldrich (2-0, 0.82 ERA) and Bolstad (2-0, 5.12 ERA) have helped add depth to a pitching rotation that is deep with the likes of Borraggine, Douglas and Sewell.

“They’re all trusting the defense and it’s been good to see,” said Mayben. “We’ve thrown nine or 10 guys this year already and it’s been nice. We’ve got a lot of arms and we’re doing a good job of throwing strikes, and our defense has been pretty spectacular.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFirst baseman Tanner Douglas is batting .462 with 16 runs and 14 RBIs to help spark the Medford Mustangs offense.