After a somewhat slow start to the summer, the Medford Mustangs appear to be gaining momentum at a good time.
With the Eugene Challengers coming to town today for an Area 4 American Legion AAA doubleheader, Medford used Friday as a nice tuneup with a sweep of Klamath Falls in a nonleague twin bill.
The Mustangs got a solid starting effort from Carter Glick and three hits by Austin Zavala to win the seven-inning opener 4-2, then completed the sweep with a 9-2 win in Game 2 at Harry & David Field.
"You want to be playing good baseball going into that (league opener) because Eugene's a good team and hopefully we can continue it," said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben.
Fresh off a third-place finish at the Willamette Classic in Salem, Medford (8-5) enters today's games at Harry & David having won six of its last seven. Tonight's opener begins at 5.
"I think we're starting to come together and starting to play better as a team," said Zavala, who was 3-for-3 with two runs in the opener. "We're making less errors and winning more so hopefully that keeps up."
Friday's opener was the Mustangs' first error-free game of the season, and they turned two double plays against the Senior Babe Ruth squad from Klamath Falls. The nightcap also was played cleanly with two more double plays by Medford.
A key to the sweep was Medford's ability to get ahead early, with the hometown boys striking for a pair of runs in the second inning of Game 1 and nabbing one run in each of the first three innings of Game 2.
To get the Mustangs started in the opener, Nate Walker drew a one-out walk and quickly moved to third on a crushed, two-out double to the left-field corner by Zavala. Bryce Rogan followed with a sharp single up the middle for a 2-0 advantage.
"In a seven-inning game you always have to throw that punch early," said Mayben, "and when you do that helps you a lot. Getting that big knock from Austin and then Rogan hitting that ball up the middle scoring those two runs was huge."
Medford tacked on another run in the third inning when Taylor Raff walked, moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt by starter Jon Guzman and scored on a wild pitch.
The lead ballooned to 4-0 in the fourth when Zavala was safe on a bunt single and, with two outs, raced all the way home from first base on a deep double to the left-field corner by Jared Evans, who was making his Mustangs debut. Zavala appeared dead to rights when he rounded third and the relay throw beat him to the plate, but the North Medford senior-to-be had other plans and somehow arrived safely.
"I'm the slowest runner on the team, too," the catcher said of the play. "I thought about just stopping but I was just running as hard as I could and it worked out."
When Zavala dived toward the inside of the plate, Klamath Falls catcher Joe Whisler lost the ball in the scramble, allowing the run to score.
"I was just trying to jump around the tag and try to hit the ball out and I guess it worked out," said Zavala. "I thought I was out the whole time."
Glick allowed that lead to stand up with his second strong outing of the summer, allowing one run in six innings. The Ashland right-hander pitched in and out of trouble through the first four innings, effectively stranding Klamath Falls baserunners in each frame by keeping the ball down and posting four of his five strikeouts.
The part-time catcher began to tire, however, and left the ball up a little in the fifth and Klamath Falls took advantage. After a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Kody Kuhlman, Chris McGahan ripped an RBI double to the left-field corner for his team's fifth hit. Glick got out of the jam when Zavala threw out McGahan trying to take third on a wild pitch, then induced two groundouts.
"I was real impressed with Glick and I think we found something there that we really like," said Mayben. "He's a competitor and he wanted to be out there. We probably let him go a little longer than we should've but he really grinded it out and did a good job."
"That's a good team," Mayben added of the Babe Ruth team. "They've got a lot of good players with that Henley group and mixing in the (Klamath Union) kids."
Micah Brown allowed one run on three infield hits in the seventh but still managed to earn his third save.
In the nightcap, Medford used a four-run fourth inning to break the game open and win going away. Isaiah Luzny led the charge by going 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs while Charlie Walker had a two-run triple and Brown plated a pair of runs. Eric Carlson also was 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
David Crofton picked up the victory, allowing six hits with five strikeouts against three hit batters and three walks in a complete-game effort.
Klamath Falls 000 010 1 — 2 8 1
Medford 021 100 x — 4 5 0
Guzman and Whisler; Glick, Brown (7) and Zavala. W — Glick (2-0). L — Guzman. S — Brown (3). 2B — KF: McGahan; M: Zavala, J. Evans.
Klamath Falls 010 000 1 — 2 6 3
Medford 111 420 x — 9 10 0
Kuhlman, Overstreet (4) and Hilyard; Crofton and Zavala. W — Crofton (1-2). L — Kuhlman. 2B — KF: Guzman. 2B — KF: Guzman, Howard. 3B — M: Luzny, C. Walker.
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