Mustangs rally late to edge Chico Nuts
Knowing that his team was in needed of a spark, Medford Mustangs leadoff man Cody Borraggine came up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth with one goal in mind Thursday afternoon.
He wanted to make something happen.
Little did Borraggine know that a bunt single traveling no more than 45 feet would be the thing that put the wheels in motion.
Putting pressure on the Chico Nuts defense proved to be the key that unlocked the Mustangs’ quiet offensive day up to that point, as Borraggine played a key role in both of his team’s runs in Medford’s 2-1 comeback win to open the Coach K Memorial at North Medford High School.
“Just trying to get something moving,” said Borraggine. “The offense wasn’t as explosive as it usually is, so we had to kinda rely on the small ball side of things. We just wanted to get something moving and it worked out.”
Doing what they weren’t able to do last week in Roseburg, the Mustangs (11-2) — who took a six-game winning streak into Thursday night’s game against the Reno Knights — began this weekend’s tournament with a win in an event that’s in its fifth year and honors former Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger, who died suddenly in 2017 at the age of 59.
“This is huge,” said Mustangs starting pitcher Cameron Sewell. “We went up to Roseburg and lost our first game and then came back and won. A win in the first game on the first day is a huge deal.”
Medford headed into the latter innings down 1-0 after Chico took a lead in the top of the fourth against Sewell thanks to Wyatt Peters’ two-out RBI single to center field.
The Mustangs were limited to two hits through the first four innings by Nuts starter Spencer Heath, who ended up being the tough-luck loser Thursday.
Heath, however, issued a walk to Mustangs No. 9 hitter Johnny King to open the bottom of the fifth, setting the table for Borraggine to make something happen.
And indeed he did.
Borraggine’s bunt rolled halfway up the third base line before it was scooped up and fired across the diamond. Borraggine not only beat it out for an infield single, but saw the throw go well wide of first base and down the right field line. That allowed King, who never really slowed down as he rounded second base, to race around third and slide head first into home to score the tying run.
To top it all off, Borraggine was able to advance to third after the throw home went to the backstop.
That paid off two batters later, as Borraggine scored the go-ahead run when Tanner Douglas grounded into a double play.
“As soon as I got (the bunt) down, I always feel confident that I can at least make it a close play at first base,” said Borraggine, “and as soon as I saw that ball go into the outfield I knew that they were in trouble. It just worked out in our favor and we were able to build off that the rest of the inning.”
Sewell knew that, at some point, the Mustangs’ offense was going to turn the tide.
“Most of the time, the fifth inning is when we get hot,” he said with a grin. “It takes a little bit of time, but I know we can do it.”
Mustangs skipper Nate Mayben knew his team would have to try and get the offense going in some form or another with the top of the lineup getting its chance in the fifth, and it just so happened that it was Borraggine’s bunt single that did the trick.
“Sometimes in games like that you have to find a way to win, and we found a way,” said Mayben. “Chico kinda gave us a break there by throwing that ball away and getting Cody to third base, but that was great execution on the drag bunt. It was great placement and that’s what you want to do with it and Cody did a great job.”
Suddenly with a lead to work with, Sewell gritted his teeth through the last four outs of his start. He found himself in jams in the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, Sewell was able to leave the potential tying run stranded at third as he recorded his seventh strikeout of the afternoon after walking the bases loaded.
After allowing a leadoff double to begin the seventh, Sewell got the first out via a strikeout, then made way for relief pitcher Owen Thompson, who got the final two outs in quick succession to close the door on any Chico comeback attempt.
“The last couple of innings I was probably trying to overthrow just a little bit, trying to hit a few spots and walked some guys,” said Sewell, who is coming off a strong junior season at South Medford in which he was named the Southwest Conference’s co-pitcher of the year. “But I started to find the zone and we were making plays.
“The last couple of innings I was starting to feel it (with fatigue) a little bit, but I kinda pushed through it.”
Sewell scattered five hits and allowed one run in his 6 1/3 innings of work Thursday. He finished with eight strikeouts and all three of his walks came during the pressure-packed top of the sixth.
“Cam’s a strike thrower and he does a great job of pounding the zone,” said Mayben. “You’re not going to get many free bases off of him, and that’s what he did today. That’s a good team over there. It was a good outing for him and all the stuff he was throwing for strikes kept (Chico) off-balance.”
Borraggine, Sewell and King accounted for the Mustangs’ three hits in the game, all of which coming against Heath, who went five innings and allowed a pair of unearned runs while striking out two and walking three.
The Mustangs continue tournament play with a 7 p.m. matchup Friday night against the Salem Withnell Dodgers at Harry & David Field.
“I’m hoping all of the games are like this one because we have some good, quality teams in here,” said Mayben. “They’re programs that have been around for a long time with a lot of success and good coaching, so I’m excited to see some of these other teams out here.”
Heath, Erickson (6) and Alexander; Sewell, Thompson (7) and Robbins. W — Sewell. L — Heath. S — Thompson. 2B — C: White.
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.