Medford shakes off slow start in Alaska champs’ run to regional
A day after Medford’s worst performance in weeks, Friday’s effort wasn’t quite perfect, but the Mustangs came through when it mattered most to avoid elimination at the American Legion AAA Northwest Regional in Gillette, Wyoming.
Medford recorded two outs at home in the first inning, another later at third base and saw relief pitcher Julius Bolstad record three crucial strikeouts against Alaska’s Eagle River to slow the Wolves to a 12-2 win on the 3rd at Hladky Memorial Stadium.
“Defensively, we made a couple of relief plays and threw a couple of guys at the plate that really bailed us out,” Mustangs coach Nate Mayben said, “because we weren’t sitting well those first couple of innings . They should have scored three or four runs, easy.”
Instead, the two-time defending champion Alaska State was limited to two runs and Medford broke the bats in a big way during a six-run third inning that proved to be the turning point in Friday’s game .
“We started off a little slow, made some mistakes and some things weren’t going too well in those first innings,” Mayben added, “but eventually we settled down and got to work and did some good things. We put the ball in a lot today in play”.
Cody Borraggine, Cameron Sewell, Jace Miller, Aiden Horsley, Jeremiah Robbins and Frankie Rutigliano each had two hits to pace the Mustangs (39-8).
“Hopefully that builds some confidence for tomorrow and we can go in tomorrow hitting the baseball,” Mayben said.
Medford will play another elimination game at 3:00 or 6:00 p.m. (Pacific) on Saturday, depending on the outcome of Friday’s final game between the Idaho Falls Bandits and the Montana Billings Royals.
The Mustangs will face Idaho Falls either way, having already played Billings, losing 5-3 Thursday, and the other winner of Friday’s elimination game, Wyoming state champion Cheyenne. previously lost to Idaho Falls. Cheyenne defeated Washington’s Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak, 8-2, in Friday’s opener.
“We just have to keep going,” Mayben said. “There’s only one game at a time here.”
If Idaho Falls loses Friday, Medford plays in the first contest. A Bandits win against Billings means play in the end. Both games, however, are in danger of being extended by concerns of possible rain Saturday in Gillette.
Miller continued his stellar summer campaign with a RBI double off Sewell in the first inning, but a combination of aggressive tactics and an error allowed Eagle River to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the frame.
When Eagle River (29-12) failed on a bunt attempt, Robbins was able to induce the first out at home with a throw to Miller at third base and a subsequent throw to home to the catcher.
The Wolves pushed for trouble again when cleanup hitter Liam Lierman singled to left field, but Horsley fired a hard throw to catch a second runner trying to advance past Robbins.
Medford starter Tanner Douglas then recorded a strikeout to end the threat without allowing a run.
An error and a pair of runs gave Eagle River a 2-1 lead in the second, but that was short-lived.
In the top of the third, Miller ripped an RBI triple to right field to score Sewell and tie the game, but the Mustangs would be far from done. Horsley hit an RBI single to left, Robbins singled to keep the momentum going and Owen Thompson followed with an RBI single to right field for a 4-2 lead.
Rutigliano singled to bring home another run, and after Eagle River made a pitching change, Johnny King advanced runners with a groundout to right and then with two outs, Borraggine swiped a two-run single runs down the right field line. to make it 7-2.
“They were in a losing game and I think they were a little tense,” Mayben said of Medford’s early mood, “but obviously that six-run inning relaxed us a little bit.”
It relaxed the Mustangs so much, in fact, that Mayben opted to pull Douglas after an intentional walk in the bottom of the third inning to save him for potential use if Medford reached Sunday’s championship game and brought to Bolstad.
The Phoenix High product allowed a single by Lierman but followed with a strikeout. An unfortunate error against Miller on a ball that he blocked with his body down the third base line but bounced too far off the bag allowed the Wolves to load the bases, but Bolstad stepped up again with two straight strikeouts.
“For Bolstad to come in and do what he did on the mound for us, and to be able to get Tanner off 45 pitches, that was huge,” Mayben said. “We didn’t plan on trying to save Tanner, but when we got ahead 7-2 it was like, are we going to do it? And we did.”
Bolstad pitched 3 1/3 innings for the win, allowing just one hit with one walk and five strikeouts. Sewell pitched the final 1 2/3 innings on just 12 pitches with one hit allowed, and that runner was thrown out trying to advance to third on a double after freshman right fielder Kyle Cope’s timely relief of King and finally to Miller.
King hit a one-out double and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, Rutigliano had a two-run single in the sixth and Horsley capped the scoring with a two-run single in the seventh to help Medford to win
Overall, Horsley finished with three RBIs, while Borraggine and Miller each had two.
Eagle River (Alaska)0200000—263
Douglas, Bolstad (3), Sewell (6) and Robbins; Kolberg, Wallace (3), Smith (6) and Roberts. W — Bolstad (7-0). L — Kolberg. 2B — M: Miller, King; ER: Smith. 3B — M: Miller.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Medford Mustangs pitcher Julius Bolstad, who showed up early in the summer, allowed just one hit with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings to pick up the win over Eagle River on Friday.