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Johnson's gem keeps Mustangs perfect at state

ROSEBURG — Joe Johnson was magnificent on the mound Sunday as the Medford Mustangs continued their quest for a fifth consecutive championship in the American Legion AAA tournament.

Johnson struck out 10 and yielded just three hits to the Mid-Valley SouthPaws in a 96-pitch shutout as the Mustangs came away with a 12-0 victory in six innings at Legion Field.

“Joe was phenomenal today,” said Mustangs coach Nate Mayben. “He was working through exhaustion and he did a good job handling it. Being the leadoff hitter and pitcher, you don’t get a lot of downtime.

“He had his curve ball working and he was spotting up his fastball. He kept them off balance, and getting a big lead always helps, too.”

The Mustangs (39-9) face the only other undefeated team in the tournament, the Dallas Dirtbags, today at 7 p.m. in the third day of the five-day double-elimination event. Whichever team wins will secure an automatic berth in Wednesday’s championship game.

A day after rallying the Mustangs in the sixth inning, Justin Geyer put together another fine afternoon, going 3-for-3 with three runs and three RBIs. The only time he got out was on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning that plated Jacob Melton.

After three straight outs to start the game in the first inning, Jack Thompson got the Mustangs started with a leadoff single and later scored on Wyatt Baptiste’s fielder’s choice. Zac Ankeny’s gave the Mustangs a 2-0 lead, capping the inning with a bunt that brought Geyer home.

“We executed small ball really well today,” said Mayben. “Zac Ankeny in the eight hole gave us a spark with push bunts to get guys across.”

In the Mustangs’ four-run third, Geyer’s double plated Melton, who hit a leadoff double. After Jon-o Gassman’s single scored Thompson, Geyer came home on another push bunt by Ankeny. Gassman put Medford up 6-0 on Bennett Thompson’s sacrifice fly to center field.

The Mustangs scored five runs in the sixth inning on five walks, a single and a wild pitch before the SouthPaws were able to record an out.

The SouthPaws were unable to close the gap in the bottom of the sixth and the Mustangs won by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule.

Both Melton and Jack Thompson finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored and were walked once, while Ankeny went 2-for-4 and Johnson was walked three times and scored once.

As the Mustangs move on to Day 3, they square off against a familiar state tournament foe in Dallas that will be hungry to upend the Mustangs, as games from the recent past have been “high intensity and controversial,” according to Mayben.

“If there’s any team that wants to beat us the most, it’s them. We’ve gotta be ready to play. They’re really well coached and they’re going to provide a really good challenge for us.”

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Johnson and B. Thompson; Crowell, Efraimson (4), Lopez (6), Hartsell (6) and Cyrus. W — Johnson. L — Crowell. 2B — M: Melton 2, Geyer.

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