Mustangs come up aces

MEDFORD — Turns out the Medford Mustangs can hit a little, too.

Medford put an exclamation mark on one of the most dominant tournament displays in American Legion AAA Northwest Regional history on Monday, roughing up Lakeside Recovery for a 14-0 triumph in the championship game.

Eight Mustangs had at least one hit, and Medford finished with 13 overall in a runaway victory that also featured solid defense and another dominant pitching effort from Northwest Regional MVP Jordan Lewis before a crowd of 1,500.

"Solid defense, solid pitching and we broke the lumber out today. It was nice to see," said Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger.

Griffin Boyd went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored to pace Medford, while Chris Bradshaw was 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBIs. Zack Earle drove in three runs and scored twice, and Isaac Rolie also had two RBIs for a Medford bunch aching to show it can do more than just pitch and play defense.

"We haven't been ourselves this whole tournament," said Boyd, whose solo home run in the fourth inning was only the second of the regional. "The pitching's been there and been awesome, but we're a hitting ballclub, too, and we showed that tonight. I was really pleased to see everyone contributed today."

Medford left no doubt who the best team in the region was for 2009, putting forth an awesome display in front of its home crowd at Harry & David Field.

The final numbers following a 5-0 run through the five days of play are enough to make you shake your head in disbelief.

Medford's pitching staff amassed a combined ERA of 0.21 with 57 strikeouts, three complete-game shutouts and only 17 hits allowed in 43 innings.

The Mustangs (45-10) scored 30 runs and allowed only two — one earned.

Opponents hit a paltry .115 against the Mustangs, who never trailed and hit .300 as a team.

"Pitching-wise, who could ever think of five games, two runs, one earned," added Kensinger. "It's just unbelievable. I've been to a few regionals and people score runs some way or the other, but our whole staff ... I'm just really proud of them."

The championship is the fourth regional crown in Mustangs history and the first in seven years. Medford now advances to the eight-team World Series in Fargo, N.D., the site of the Mustangs' first trip to the national tourney in 1992.

"It's a great baseball town," Kensinger said of the host city. "Anybody has an opportunity to win that thing. You never know what kinda clubs are going to be there. Obviously we're a decent club, and what's great about it is they don't know you."

Given Medford's domination of the regional, it's safe to say word might leak out about the Mustangs prior to Friday's opener against Midland Michigan, the Great Lakes Regional champion. The contest is at 3 p.m. PST.

Lakeside Recovery (36-14) squandered its best opportunity to score in the first inning after a two-out triple by Mario Sanelli, and that was all the opening Medford would need. The Mustangs went through their batting order in the bottom of the first, exploding for five runs on three hits, three walks and one error to take command.

"Medford was on a roll this tournament, kinda like we were last tournament," said Lakeside manager Rob Reese. "The pitching was dominating all tournament. They hadn't swung the bat like they did today. Once we gave up the five-spot in the first inning, it was pretty much over the way their pitching staff performs."

"Hopefully they keep it up, they're a great team," added a gracious Reese, whose team lost 32-22 to Medford on July 2 in the Curt Daniels Memorial Tournament in Portland.

Bradshaw dropped down a perfect one-out bunt to reach safely and get things going for Medford in the first inning. Earle's high pop-up fell out of the reach of second baseman Ryan Somers to put runners on first and second, but that status was short-lived as Boyd belted a two-run double to the left-center field gap.

Boyd then tried to distract third baseman Devin O'Donnell on a grounder by Garrett Tygerson, dancing off second base and finally breaking when he believed O'Donnell was going to throw to first base. Instead, O'Donnell pump-faked and put Boyd in a pickle he somehow escaped after a couple cutbacks and a final dive back into second base.

Ian Kendall then walked to load the bases and Matt Maurer drew another walk to plate Boyd, who was engulfed by a pumped-up Mustang bench inspired by his fiery play. The cheers kept coming moments later when Rolie smacked a two-run single for a 5-0 lead against Lakeside starter Colin Hering.

After a two-out walk to Max Gordon, Hering was removed for reliever Cole Wiper, who induced a groundout to first baseman Kevon Zadeh to end the inning.

Zadeh had a handful of nice defensive plays to thwart Medford, but even they were overshadowed after a diving effort by left fielder Ian Kendall to open the second inning and several sure-handed efforts by Bradshaw at second base and Boyd at third.

Those defensive gems especially came in handy for Lewis, who admitted he wasn't at his best but gutted it out to increase his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 35. The left-hander struck out five and walked five on 120 pitches.

"When you win a championship, I'm going to be happy with it," Lewis said of his outing. "I definitely didn't have my best stuff today so I had to just try to work the strike zone and get ground balls."

The sophomore-to-be at Western Nevada College seemed a shoo-in for tournament MVP after striking out 20 and allowing six hits in 14 scoreless innings, but he was still a little surprised by the recognition.

"It's a great honor to me," said Lewis. "There's a lot of guys here, a lot of great players. Just to go out there and all you do is pitch and you don't even get to hit or anything ... I mean you've got guys making great plays and hitting home runs, so it's a great feeling."

Wiper kept Medford at bay until the fourth, when the Mustangs rattled off four more runs behind RBI singles from Gordon and Bradshaw, an RBI sacrifice fly from Earle and a laser shot over the right-field fence by Boyd for a rare homer at H&D.

"It was lucky," said Boyd. "I haven't hit (an opposite-field) ball in this park this whole year, it's crazy."

Medford scored four more runs in the fifth against Wiper's replacement, Matt Houser, on an RBI single by Bradshaw, a two-run double by Earle and an RBI single by Boyd.

The Mustangs' final run came in the bottom of the sixth when Matt Maurer legged out a leadoff double off reliever Jared Fisher, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.

Lewis walked two in the seventh and final inning but fittingly posted three strikeouts to send the Mustangs off on a frenzied romp toward a dogpile behind the pitcher's mound.

"I'm just really happy for Coach K," said Boyd. "We've been in this tournament for the last (three) years and we felt we were the best team there the last two years but when that third game would come around, we'd lose that, people would lose confidence and then we'd lose the fourth game and be out. I think getting past that third game won this tournament for us."

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