The Medford Mustangs' pitchers continue to play a game of follow the leader that no one else can keep up with here at the American Legion AAA Northwest Regional.
Dylan Bedortha took his turn on the mound Sunday afternoon after his predecessors turned in a combined 0.33 ERA through three games and, amazingly, managed to lower that number.
Bedortha tossed the first nine-inning complete game of his pitching career, scattering only three hits to shut out Cheyenne Post 6 of Wyoming for a 3-0 victory in front of a crowd of 1,180.
"I've never seen anything like it," Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger said of the dominant efforts put forth by his pitchers. "The effort by Dylan today was phenomenal. He's never really been in this kind of situation before and, boy, did he come through."
With Bedortha's effort, Medford improved to 4-0 in the regional and lowered its team ERA to 0.25 with only two runs allowed — one earned — and 52 strikeouts in 36 innings. Opponents are batting .114 against the Mustangs, who have been dynamic with Jordan Lewis, Neil Emerson, Matt Maurer, Bradey Shipley and Bedortha on the mound.
Of that group, Bedortha's outing might have been the most improbable considering he had only pitched 361/3 innings leading up to Sunday's game. Save for one rough outing against Roseburg Dr. Stewart's, however, and Bedortha's numbers have been as good as any Medford pitcher.
Still, even the North Medford High graduate was taken aback by his own prowess. He struck out five and walked one on only 94 pitches, improving to 4-2 this summer.
"That's a pretty amazing feeling right there," he said of the complete-game victory. "It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Catcher Lewis Sebrell had the best view of all during Bedortha's breakout performance.
"He had command of all of his pitches," said Sebrell of his battery-mate. "His breaking pitches were breaking really well and he was locating his fastball. I don't care how fast or how slow you throw, when you can locate like that and your slider and curveball are working, you're going to have a day ... and he really did."
Sunday's victory put the Mustangs (44-10) in prime position to secure their fourth Northwest Regional championship. Medford needs only one win in two potential games today against Lakeside Recovery (36-13) of Bellevue, Wash., to return to the World Series for the first time in seven years.
The Washington team, which is 3-1 in regional play, staved off a comeback attempt by the Billings (Mont.) Scarlets for a 4-2 triumph in Sunday's earlier contest.
Today's first game begins at 4 p.m. at Harry & David Field. A win by Washington would force another game around 7, with the winner advancing to the eight-team World Series, which begins Friday in Fargo, N.D.
"We want to get after that first game and hopefully take care of it and get out of there, if possible," said Kensinger, in his 20th season with the Mustangs.
Medford previously won the regional title in 1992, 1997 and 2002.
Medford and Lakeside Recovery met July 2 in a Portland-area tournament, with the Mustangs winning a six-inning slugfest, 31-22. That game featured 46 hits, including 16 for extra bases.
"They hit everybody we threw out there last time at them," said Kensinger. "It was just one of those games, their pitchers and our pitchers just weren't getting outs and balls were flying all over the place."
Lewis, who struck out 15 and allowed three hits in seven innings to open the tournament, will get the call to the mound for today's 4 o'clock contest. He did not pitch in the July matchup.
Given how his peers have pitched thus far in the tournament, Bedortha entered the day just hoping to follow suit.
"When you've got a good start behind you, you want to duplicate that," he said. "You don't want to be the guy that has the bad outing. We know we've got bats to win this, we just try to keep our team close to give us a chance."
"I was just trying to pound the zone and put my defense to work," added Bedortha, who played this past spring at Oregon Tech. "I've got great guys behind me that are going to support me and make plays. We had several great defensive plays today that probably could've gone for hits, so they really came through for me."
Infielders Griffin Boyd, Chris Bradshaw and Zack Earle were dynamic in fielding grounders and making seemingly impossible relay throws to first baseman Garrett Tygerson to deny Cheyenne (53-16).
Somewhat overshadowed by Bedortha and the defensive support was the clutch play of catcher Sebrell. The Ashland High graduate is leading Medford through the tournament with a .444 batting average (4-for-9), and seemingly all of his hits have come at key times for the Mustangs.
Sebrell sparked the Mustangs again in the fourth inning, plating the first runs of the ballgame on a two-run double down the third-base line. His hit came after Ian Kendall and Matt Maurer drew one-out walks and Isaac Rolie blooped a single to center field to load the bases against Cheyenne starter Brandon Anderson.
"I was just trying to stay off the plate and hit the fastball, it was pretty simple," said Sebrell. "He handcuffed me a little bit but I was just swinging hard since I knew it was a fastball coming. It was real nice to see that ball go through. I knew it was going to be a close game so that really meant a lot."
The Mustangs tacked on another run in a fiery fifth inning that included the ejection of frustrated Cheyenne manager Tagg Lain.
Earle opened the inning with a shot to the right-center gap for a double that put an end to Anderson's day. Relief pitcher Chris Nadon induced Boyd into a groundball to shortstop Ty Lain, who unsuccessfully tried to nab Earle at third and was visibly upset by the call by third base umpire Jerry Eklund.
With runners at the corners, Garrett Tygerson smacked a single through the left side to plate Earle for a 3-0 lead. Kendall followed with a grounder to the shortstop, who relayed to third for a force out of Boyd that resulted in Tagg Lain moving to the top step of his dugout with a few words for those on the field and several loud claps.
After not getting a strike call during Maurer's ensuing at-bat on a 1-1 pitch, Tagg Lain tossed his hat into the dugout and, moments later, was ejected by second base umpire Kendall Snyder. Once order was restored, Nadon struck out Maurer and Rolie to quell the threat.
Earle went 2-for-4 to pace the Mustangs' eight-hit effort. Ty Svec, Ty Lain and Jorden Mossey had the lone hits for Cheyenne, which entered the game with the top batting average (.337) in the regional.
Reach reporter Kris Henryat 776-4488 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org