FARGO, N.D. — A team finally solved the Medford Mustangs pitching staff, but it took the best squad in the country.
Midland, Mich., scored eight runs through four innings and cruised to an 11-4 victory Tuesday to claim the American Legion AAA World Series championship at Newman Outdoor Field.
"We're disappointed, but the kids need to realize, No. 1, how hard it is to get here in the first place, just to the World Series," Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger said. "My hat's off to Michigan; they came out and swung the bats. They are a good hitting ballclub. They are very disciplined and well-coached."
Medford (48-12) had allowed just eight earned runs in its previous nine postseason games, including the regional tournament.
The Mustangs had a 0.96 postseason ERA before Tuesday's championship. The Mustangs would have had to beat Midland twice to earn a national title. Midland also beat Medford 4-2 in the opening round of the tournament last Friday.
"It's definitely a great feeling to be here, runner-up you know," said Medford ace pitcher Jordan Lewis, who finished his career with a 45-4 record. "We got as far as we can, I felt we had a great season. There are hundreds of teams that wish they could be where we are now so you just have to be happy with it."
Lewis pitched three innings in relief on short rest, allowing three runs — two earned — on three hits. The lefty had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 441/3 innings.
Kensinger said he didn't start Lewis because he was going on two days rest. If there would have been a second title game, Kensinger said Lewis would have started that game.
"He felt coming back on short rest might not be the best thing for his future and that's his arm," Kensinger said. "He's a four-year guy. He's done so much for us. To jeopardize that, it's not that important."
Medford cut the Midland lead to 8-3, scoring three runs in the sixth inning. Medford third baseman Griffin Boyd capped that rally with a two-run home run to right field, also plating Chris Bradshaw. That blast followed a sacrifice fly by Zack Earle that scored Max Gordon.
Boyd was 2-for-4 in the championship game with two RBIs and a run scored. Gordon was 2-for-5.
"I was just really excited about the summer that I had. It's probably up there with the best summers of my life," Boyd said. "It's just a great group of guys, friends for life. We have a lot of good memories this summer."
Midland scored three runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back. Kyle O'Boyle, Cole Martin and Eric Peterson each had RBI singles for Midland in the first off Medford starter Neil Emerson. All three of those RBI hits came with two outs.
Midland (54-7) won all five games it played in the tournament.
"That just shows that we're a team, there is no one person out here that did something spectacular," said Midland shortstop Jordan Dean, who was named tournament MVP. "We all worked together and our pitching was fabulous."
Right-handed relief pitcher Bradey Shipley, catcher Lewis Sebrell and designated hitter Matt Maurer were all-tournament selections for the Mustangs.
Kensinger, who also led Medford to a runner-up finish at the 1997 World Series, was proud of his entire team.
"These kids have been great citizens. When I get compliments on how well-behaved our kids are, it makes me feel very good," Kensinger said. "They have class. They play hard and we've been a family all summer. We've had our ups and downs, but we got it done when we had to."
Lewis got his first American Legion baseball at-bat in the World Series and cracked a single to left field in the seventh inning. The same scenario played out for Charlie Sebrell, who pitched the top of the ninth and singled off the first baseman in the bottom half of the frame.
"This is a great end to my career," Lewis said. "Getting to be here with such great guys and being at the World Series in North Dakota. The season was a good one. I've really enjoyed my time playing over the summer in my hometown."
Midland 312 200 030 — 11 15 3
Medford 000 003 001 — 4 7 2
Kyle O'Boyle, Sean Hartman (7) and Cole Martin; Neil Emerson, Matt Maurer (2), Ian Kendall (4), Jordan Lewis (6), Charlie Sebrell (9) and Lewis Sebrell, Colin Sowers. W—Kyle O'Boyle. L—Neil Emerson. T-2:40. A-1867.
— O'Boyle 2 (2); Dawson (6); Earle, Z (5); Sowers, C (2). DP — MI 2; OR 1. LOB — MI 10; OR 7. 2B — Boyd, G (4). HR — Boyd, G (2). SH — Babinski (1); Dawson (1). SF — Earle, Z (2). SB — Yatch, G 2 (6). HR — M: Griffin Boyd (2).