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Mustangs stomp Titans

Kris Henry

Mail Tribune

The Medford Mustangs entered Tuesday’s Area 4-opening twin bill against Willamette Valley batting .349 as a team and didn’t do anything to lower that figure in American Legion AAA baseball at Harry & David Field.

Medford amassed 21 hits to keep the pressure on the Titans en route to a conference-opening sweep, 12-2 in six innings and 4-1.

The Mustangs (5-3, 2-0 Area 4) entered the doubleheader with 65 hits in six games and finished 21-for-56 (.375) against Willamette Valley. In the opener alone, the Mustangs got at least one hit from eight players, at least one RBI from seven players and at least one run scored from eight players in the lineup.

“Every game we’ve played it seems like we’ve put up at least 10 hits,” said Medford manager Nate Mayben. “Our guys are just doing a good job with their approach at the plate. They’re swinging at good pitches that are up in the zone, staying away from pitcher’s pitches until they get two strikes and they’re driving the baseball. It’s fun to watch.”

The Mustangs will get another chance to pad their hot start at the plate during a unique tripleheader today at Harry & David Field. Medford will host Humboldt at 10 a.m., then Humboldt will play the Klamath Falls Senior Babe Ruth team around 12:30 p.m. before the Mustangs return to play Klamath Falls around 3 p.m.

Coming off a three-game road trip to Salem that saw Medford limited to only 10 available players due to injury and other commitments, the Mustangs hit high gear early against Willamette Valley (3-6, 0-2) on Tuesday. Medford opened the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 with consecutive singles by Tate Cowden, Jared Evans and Micah Brown and simply didn’t look back in scoring six runs behind six of the Mustangs’ eventual 14 hits.

“It was a good tone-setter for the day,” Mayben said of the first-inning surge. “We hit the ball really well up in Salem and it was nice to come out in that first inning and set that same tone again of, hey, we’re going to hit.”

After the aforementioned trio loaded the bases, Bryce Rogan drove in the first run with an RBI groundout and Josh Berman followed with a two-run single to left field. Cody Coggins added a double to put more runners in scoring position and later came in to score with Berman after Eric Carlson’s grounder was thrown away by Titans shortstop Alec Cook.

After a wild pitch, Austin Zavala followed with an RBI single in his first game of the summer with the Mustangs to make it 6-0.

That outburst proved to be more than enough for Medford right-hander Aaron Hutchinson, who was an emergency starter after Jordan Ragan was held out as a precaution with tightness in his back. Hutchinson allowed two runs on four hits in 4⅔ innings to pick up his first win in two starts. The Phoenix High standout struck out two, walked one and hit one in another solid showing.

“We’re really happy with what we’re seeing in Hutchinson,” said Mayben. “He’s a guy that wasn’t necessarily on our list early on in the season but he proved himself at Phoenix by pitching really well and beating some big teams. He earned a spot on this team and we’ve been more than pleased with what he’s done for us. He’s got really good stuff and he doesn’t walk guys, he pitches to contact.”

A double by Willamette Valley’s Aaron Patterson set up the Titans’ first run in the second inning, with Jake Simpson later scoring on a wild pitch, but Medford more than made up for that with a five-run fourth inning that saw the Mustangs send 11 batters to the plate.

Doubles by Evans, Rogan and Berman highlighted the fourth inning, with Rogan and Berman each picking up their third RBIs in the frame. Rogan and Berman each finished 2-for-4.

Will Weaver came on in relief of Hutchinson with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and, beyond an RBI fielder’s choice by Cook, the Cascade Christian product was able to keep the Titans at bay.

Evans, who finished 3-for-5 with two runs, supplied a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the sixth to invoke the 10-run mercy rule.

Coggins, who entered the game batting a team-best .625, went 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI, while Cowden was 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI as Medford finished 14-for-30 overall.

In Game 2, Willamette Valley was able to strike first with an unearned run against Coggins in the fifth inning after Medford committed its only two errors of the twin bill.

Undaunted, the Mustangs roared right back with four runs in the bottom of the fifth to secure the sweep.

Evans sparked the rally by bunting for a single and then racing to third on a hard grounder by Brown that eluded the grasp of the Titans’ shortstop. Rogan picked up an RBI on a grounder to second base that was ultimately booted for an error to allow him to reach safely and Brown alertly hustled to third. With one out, Ragan plated Brown with a perfectly placed bunt and, after a wild pitch scored Rogan, Ragan came in to score on another squeeze bunt by Zavala.

Coggins pitched six innings and allowed two hits with two strikeouts and one walk — a 14-pitch at-bat by Nathan Miller — to improve to 2-0 this summer. Brown allowed one walk and struck out one to post his first save with a solid seventh inning.

“These games are important, especially coming out of our league this year where I think there’s only three teams that get to go on (to the playoffs),” said Mayben. “It’s not like the past where all five teams are going to get a shot at the postseason, so we’ve got to go out and take care of business every day.”

Making matters that much more difficult is that leading pitcher Colton Westfall remains in a walking boot after injuring himself the day prior to North Medford’s quarterfinals game against McMinnville and subsequently in that 3-0 loss. Mayben said the right-hander likely won’t be available for another week.

FIRST GAME

Willamette Valley;010;010;—;2;5;3

Medford;600;501;—;12;14;0

O’Connor, Richey (4), Severson (5) and Guy; Hutchinson, Weaver (5) and Zavala. W — Hutchinson (1-0). L — O’Connor. 2B — WV: Patterson; M: Coggins, Evans 2, Rogan, Berman.

SECOND GAME

Willamette Valley;000;010;0;—;1;2;3

Medford;000;040;x;—;4;7;2

Patterson, Simpson (5) and Guy; Coggins, Brown (7) and Hamik, Zavala (6). W — Coggins (2-0). L — Patterson. S — Brown (1). 2B — M: Carlson.

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

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Medford's Eric Carlson connects for a base hit during Game 1 at Harry & David Field. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON
Medford's Will Weaver closes out Game 1 during an American Legion doubleheader on Tuesday. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON