There really wasn't much either team could complain about beyond the stifling heat during Monday's elimination game of the American Legion A State Tournament at North Medford High.
La Grande and the host Mavericks battled pitch for pitch under the intense loser-goes-home setting until the Subway A's broke a 3-all tie with a pair of runs in the eighth inning and held on for a 5-4 triumph in nine innings.
"That's the way you come to play ... that's baseball," said La Grande manager Eric Yundt. "Both teams battled it out and we were fortunate enough to come out on the winning end, but those are games you love to play, win or lose. I just had a blast."
The win propels La Grande (19-9) into today's final round of action in the state tournament against the Salem Senators, who staved off elimination with a 22-16 win over Roseburg Pepsi Monday evening.
By virtue of its previously undefeated status, Roseburg receives a bye into the championship final and will face the La Grande-Salem winner following today's 10 a.m. opener.
Today's scenario could've easily included North Medford (28-12), but the Mavericks lost a 3-0 lead and couldn't manage hits at key times in an otherwise nip-and-tuck contest with La Grande.
"That game could've gone either way," said Mavericks manager Brett Wolfe, whose team was the state runner-up last year. "I'm just real proud of our kids in the way they approached the game and their work ethic all summer. It was just one of those things today."
Both teams received excellent starting pitching, with North Medford senior-to-be Michael Bradshaw keeping the hard-hitting Subway A's at bay by changing speeds and getting tremendous defensive support. Austin Woodward, who will be a junior at Union High in the fall, was similarly able to get out of several self-induced jams.
Each team also received stellar relief pitching from Will Allbright for the Mavs and Zach Nice for La Grande.
"I was pleased with our pitching and theirs," said Yundt. "It was excellent, excellent pitching."
North Medford capitalized on some wayward efforts by Woodward in the second, with Phillip Jovanovic and Chris Anderson each hit by a pitch to open the inning. After a sacrifice grounder by Shaun Whitehead nabbed Anderson at second, Woodward earned a strikeout but couldn't get past Michael Paxton, who slapped an RBI single.
The Mavericks tacked on two more runs in the third. Jessie Hornbrook blasted a leadoff triple over the head of right fielder J.R. Masters, and Cory Haggans followed with a grounder that was misplayed by Nice at shortstop for a 2-0 lead. After a stolen base by Haggans, Anderson laced a one-out double down the right-field line to make it 3-0.
The Mavericks appeared to be in position to score more, but Whitehead's soaring fly out to right field was initially bobbled — causing a mix-up for Anderson as he tagged up and advanced to third. La Grande challenged that Anderson left early because he didn't see the eventual bobble in the outfield and the designated hitter was called out in an unconventional double play.
Nice scored La Grande's first run in the top of the fourth after hitting a leadoff single, a one-out single by Woody Stockhoff and a fielder's choice RBI grounder by Tyler Edison.
North Medford appeared to have an answer in the bottom of the frame when Cory Pine drew one of his three walks and Paxton followed with a bunt single that landed him on second following a throwing error. Hayden Evans was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs, but Woodward got Cody James to pop up to second base and then Hornbrook followed with a liner to third baseman Blake Partney, who threw across the diamond to double off Evans at first base.
"That's just a tough play for kids because the ball's hit and your first reaction is to break, and that's just what happened," said Wolfe. "A foot left or right and it's in for us, but Jessie Hornbrook hits it right on the nose and we're breaking on it instead of taking a step back and they doubled us up. That was a big turning point in the ballgame."
La Grande managed to pull within one run in the fifth after Carson Miller reached on a fielder's choice, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Josh Yundt. The visitors scored the tying run in the seventh when Masters singled to left field, advanced to third on two wild pitches and scored after a fielding error by Hornbrook at third.
With the game tied 3-all, La Grande's Nice and Woodward blasted back-to-back doubles to left field to put an end to Bradshaw's day in the eighth. Allbright struck out Stockhoff before allowing an RBI blooper by Edison, then capped the inning with two overpowering strikeouts. Allbright struck out four with one walk in his two innings of relief.
"I thought we had it and then they just started hitting it into the holes where we weren't and we couldn't do much about it," said Paxton of La Grande's rally. "Bradshaw pitched a good game for us, they just found some holes."
Pitching for the first summer in about four years because of a growth plate separation in his elbow, Bradshaw allowed 10 hits but walked no one in seven innings.
"I'm very, very pleased with his performance today," said Wolfe. "He goes seven-plus innings and still looked very good toward the end. Guys just went down and hit good pitches there in the eighth inning."
The Mavericks cut their deficit in half in the eighth after Jovanovic singled up the middle and eventually scored on a hustle play from third after a groundout by Jeremy Scottow. Jovanovic's single, however, was North Medford's lone hit over the final five innings.
"Our bats just weren't coming through as well as they had been in the previous games," said Paxton, who had two of his team's five hits.
Nice, an incoming senior at La Grande, struck out two in a perfect ninth to close out the Mavs.
La Grande 000 110 120 — 5 11 4
North Medford 012 000 010 — 4 5 2
Woodward, Nice (9) and Miller; Bradshaw, Allbright (8) and Pine. W — Woodward (5-0). L — Bradshaw (2-4). 2B — L: Woodward 2, Edison, Nice; NM: Anderson. 3B — NM: Hornbrook.
SALEM 22, ROSEBURG 16 — Three Salem players had five hits apiece as the Senators belted out 28 hits to pin the first state tournament loss on Roseburg, which was already secured of a spot in the championship final.
Jordan Giza was 5-for-7 with six runs and two RBIs, Brandon Chinn 5-for-6 with three runs and one RBI and Jake Marlatt 5-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs to pace Salem.
Roseburg managed 15 hits of its own, with Micah Audiss going 4-for-6 with four runs and two RBIs and Blaine Sterling 4-for-4 with three runs and one RBI.
Salem 211 080 730 — 22 28 4
Roseburg 131 304 202 — 16 15 4
Hamilton, Cox (6), Hoffman (6), Crossley (7) and Marlatt; Smith, Morin (6), Priestly (8), Audiss (9) and Sweeden. W — Hoffman. L — Morin. 2B — S: Hoffman, Chinn, Marlatt, Hamilton, Cox, Black; R: Audiss, Tovey, Sterling 2, Graham, Sweeden. 3B — S: Fohn, Giza; R: Tovey.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org