Kraft-y Beetles overwhelm Mustangs

If the visiting Yakima Beetles were going through some growing pains entering Wednesday's opener of the Best of the West Wood Bat Challenge, they certainly rounded into form at Harry and David Field.

Using a dominant pitching effort by right-hander Justin Kraft and some timely hitting, Yakima put the Medford Mustangs on their heels en route to a 7-2 triumph.

Kraft struck out nine and allowed only five hits in seven innings of work, with Levi Mitchum pitching two scoreless innings to seal the victory.

"He's probably the best righty that we've seen this year, no doubt, velocity-wise and spotting it up," Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger said of Kraft. "We hung in there and hit the ball hard a couple times, but right at people."

Mark Austad was 2-for-4 to pace Medford, but the rest of the Mustangs could only manage a 4-for-28 (.143) effort against the Beetles.

"I just tried to get ahead and throw a fastball and let my defense do the work," said Kraft. "They played really good tonight. They were all over the place for me."

The same really couldn't be said of a Medford team that played without the intensity it normally exhibits.

"You just hate to let things go by the wayside," said Kensinger, whose team has won the past two Best of the West titles. "You just have to care."

The Mustangs (7-5) will look to bounce back today when they play host to the Salem Withnell Dodgers at 7 p.m. at Harry and David Field.

In other Best of the West action today at H & D, Portland's East County Knights will take on Yakima (4-9) at 4 p.m.

In the Klamath Falls bracket, today's games at Kiger Stadium include the Sierra Sun Devils of Reno, Nev., against Fairfield, Calif., and the Klamath Falls Falcons against Susanville, Calif.

The Best of the West tournament runs through Sunday.

"We'll battle away," said Kensinger. "We just need to figure out the formula for when we open up (Area 4 play) against Grants Pass (on July 1). That's where it really counts, but these guys need to take every game like they all count. You never know who's up in the stands watching."

Yakima struck first in the opening frame thanks to a two-out triple by Lawrence Cacchiotti and a run-scoring bloop single by catcher Brad Gordon.

The Beetles kept the pressure on with three runs in the fourth inning, taking advantage of some control problems by Medford starter Matt Maurer and three hits. The left-handed Maurer needed 47 pitches to get through the first three innings, but had 37 in the fourth inning alone.

Gordon once again played a part in the scoring, slapping a one-out single to left field and advancing to second on a single by Paul DiPietro. After a wild pitch on a strikeout moved up both runners, Armando Sedano walked to load the bases. Kelly Webster, batting in the No. 9 spot, then reached out for a two-run single to center field.

Another walk loaded the bases again, and Ryan Van Beek brought home the third run when he also earned a free pass to make it 4-0.

"Ball four affected him up at Canby and again tonight, but we've just got to keep plugging away," Kensinger said of the sophomore-to-be Maurer.

The Mustangs finally put something together in the bottom of the sixth when Dustin Smith earned a leadoff walk and Griff Boyd walked one out later. Austad followed with a single to right field, and Smith came around to score when right fielder Kevin Komstadius overran the baseball.

Pinch-hitter Jared Smith worked his way on base with a walk to keep up the momentum, and Kory Locken followed with an RBI groundout to the right side of the infield. Zack Earle barely missed a chance to tie the game moments later when his hard hit was gobbled up by third baseman Tyler Berman for an inning-ending putout.

But just as Medford appeared to be turning the corner, Yakima battled back in the top of the seventh with a two-out, two-run rally against reliever Shea Bedortha. The Mustangs committed two costly errors in the frame, with Berman reaching on a throwing error by the shortstop Earle and scoring on an RBI double by Sedano. An error by first baseman Logan Odom on a grounder by Webster allowed Sedano to score to make it 6-2 in favor of the Beetles.

Yakima's lead blossomed to 7-2 in the eighth when Van Beek raced home from third on a wild pitch with two outs. Van Beek had reached base on a leadoff single and was advanced to third on a double by Cacchiotti.

"We let it slip away," said Kensinger. "Coming back from two runs is a lot easier than coming back from five runs."

Sedano paced Yakima by going 3-for-4 with two runs and one RBI, while Jordan Bostwick, Dustin Smith, Odom and Boyd each had one hit for Medford.

Yakima Beetles 100 300 210 — 7 12 2

Medford Mustangs 000 002 000 — 2 6 3

Kraft, Mitchum (8) and Gordon; Maurer, S. Bedortha (6) and Bruhns. W — Kraft (2-1). L — Maurer (0-2). 2B — Y: Sedano, Cacchiotti; M: D. Smith, Austad, Odom. 3B — Y: Cacchiotti.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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