Nate Mayben, the manager of the Medford Mustangs, was foresighted when he predicted Sunday night that his team’s matchup with the Hillsboro Barbers in the winner’s bracket would be a struggle.
Medford’s second triumph of the American Legion AAA state championship was quick and efficient, but Monday was drawn out and nerve-wracking. The Mustangs rallied in the 11th inning to upset the Barbers 7-6 in a back-and-forth prize fight between two unbeaten teams.
Mayben praised the entire team’s performance. “I’m proud of their perseverance and calmness. They were a fairly mature squad given how young they are, never too up or down.”
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Hillsboro broke a 5-all tie in the 11th with a go-ahead run, but Tanner Douglas’s ground-rule double and Aiden Horsley’s RBI single tied the game.
The Barbers purposefully walked Jeremiah Robbins to face Frankie Rutigliano, who was 0-for-4 at the time.
Rutigliano bunted perfectly to the left side, but Hillsboro’s fifth relief pitcher drew away to let Dakota Chun field it. The moment of delay caused the hasty throw to miss first base as Rutigliano ran to the bag.
Horsley easily galloped to third base, but when he saw Hillsboro’s first baseman lose his feet to collect the wide throw, he aggressively spun toward home plate and scored the winning run when the relay throw was low of the waiting catcher.
“Frankie bunted perfectly,” said Mayben. “Aiden watched the throw and made a play.”
Medford (35-7) is the only unbeaten team remaining after the win. The Mustangs may force a club to need two wins against Southern Oregon by beating Sherwood at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Sherwood beat Salem Withnell 8-6 while Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s beat Eugene/Springfield Emerald 5-4.
Tuesday at 3 p.m., the Barbers (32-9-1) will play Roseburg.
Cameron Sewell was just as successful as teammate Cody Borraggine through 16 batters on Monday. South Medford’s pitcher went 61/3 innings, struck out four, walked two, and allowed five hits. Three of his five runs were earned.
St. Mary’s relief pitcher Beau Aldrich allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and one walk.
Mayben said, “Beau played well.” “Everything he threw, he controlled and mixed brilliantly. Jeremiah Robbins called the game brilliantly. He kept Cam and Beau off-balance.”
“I wasn’t expecting an 11-inning game,” he said. “I expected 30-40 pitches to wrap up the seventh, but Beau did a tremendous job.”
Barber left-handed starter Nelson Keljo is the top high school senior prospect in Oregon, but the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Oregon State commit did not factor in the decision. Hillsboro used its pitchers to develop possibilities for Tuesday and potentially Wednesday.
Keljo escaped a first-inning jam four days after allowing four runs on six hits for the Corvallis Knights against the Cowlitz Black Bears. Left fielder Joe Brauckmiller collected a flyout and then threw a strike home to finish the game.
Jace Miller, Horsley, and Robbins loaded the bases in the second inning against Keljo. Kaleb Long scored the game’s first run on a fielder’s choice to third before Keljo struck out.
Miller scored in the fourth inning thanks to two Hillsboro mistakes. Both teams scored in the fifth and sixth innings.
Sewell hit in Medford’s sixth and advanced on a throwing error. Tanner Douglas’ RBI single followed. Johnny King walked with two outs, moved to second on Borragine’s single, and scored on Sewell’s single.
Sewell immediately got the seventh out, but two singles placed runners on the corners. Sewell’s time on the mound ended when a liner escaped Miller at third base, cutting Medford’s advantage to 4-3.
A grounder to the right side by Aldrich enabled the tying run to score, and a sacrifice fly gave the Barbers a 5-4 lead before he got out of the inning.
Miller kept South Medford’s hopes alive with a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. “To lead off the bottom of the eighth like that was huge,” said Mayben. “That’s a tough park to hit from.”
Medford stranded runners in the eighth and ninth before scoring in the 11th. Miller and Horsley went 3-for-5 with two runs and one RBI, and Borragine, Sewell, and Douglas each had two hits.
Hillsboro Barbers000011 3001-694
Sewell, Aldrich (7), and Robbins; Keljo, Hergert (4), Price (5), Harbaugh (6), Werner (8), and Smith (11). ALDRICH Smith. Douglas. Gustafson. Miller.
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