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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMustangs Jacob Melton slides into 2nd base safe in the 1st inning.

Mustangs deny GP

There has been a lot to be excited about in the early stages of this American Legion baseball season for Medford Mustangs manager Nate Mayben, and that only continued to be the case Tuesday in his team’s home opener at Harry & David Field.

Medford scored early and often, piling up 16 hits overall, and got solid outings from a trio of pitchers to ease past the Grants Pass Nuggets, 11-3, in nonleague action.

Jacob Melton went 3-for-5 with one run and four RBIs, Brennen Watts was 3-for-5 with two RBIs, Joe Johnson 3-for-6 with two runs and one RBI and Zac Ankeny 3-for-4 with two runs to pace the Mustangs (4-1).

“I really like our approaches at the plate,” said Mayben, whose team is wearing No. 17 warm-up jerseys this summer in honor of former manager Sandee Kensinger, who died suddenly last fall. “I feel like we’re doing a really good job of being patient and when we’re up in the count we’re looking for our pitch and when we have runners in scoring position we’re looking to hit the ball on the ground and do our job.”

“We’re taking a lot of pitches this year and I feel like we’re making the pitchers work a lot,” added Mayben, “so offensively I really like what we’ve got going on.”

Medford wasted little time in making noise against Grants Pass (0-1), scoring three times in the bottom of the first to set a tone the Nuggets simply couldn’t follow.

Johnson, who was 7-for-15 in a season-opening road trip, singled to lead off the bottom of the first and eventually scored on a one-out RBI single by Melton.

After Jack Thompson reached on a fielder’s choice error by shortstop Cade Kissel, Zac Ankeny drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Jon-o Gassman, who came up clutch with a two-run single to left field for a 3-0 advantage.

Melton’s second RBI single made it 4-0 before the Nuggets could answer. Grants Pass, which had its first practice Monday, took advantage of an error and a walk to Bennett Rodgers to put a runner in scoring position and Crater’s Nick Bastendorff came through with an RBI single to make it 4-1.

The Nuggets made it interesting with two runs in the fourth inning off Jack Thompson, who gave up consecutive singles by Cade King and Kolton Fisher before a pair of errors allowed the score to move to 4-3. Brady Buchanan entered shortly thereafter and closed the door, allowing only an infield single to North Medford teammate Josh Robbins before finishing the fourth.

Buchanan was very effective out of the bullpen, striking out three while allowing only two hits with one walk and one hit batter in five innings to earn the victory in relief. Buchanan also went 1-for-1 with one run and one RBI to help his cause.

“Brady did a phenomenal job,” said Mayben. “We were only going to throw him three innings but why take him out when he’s doing that? He did a great job of mixing things up and I really liked that from him.”

The Mustangs broke the game open with four runs in the fifth inning, with RBI efforts from Bennett Thompson, Watts and Melton, and then removed all doubt in the sixth inning after Ankeny’s leadoff triple set the stage for RBIs by Ryan Sandoval, Johnson and Melton.

“That was a good answer for the team and we need to get used to that,” said Mayben. “We need to be doing that when teams score. We want to bounce back and put up equal or more runs than they do.”

Grants Pass 001200 000 — 353

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Fisher, Peck (3), King (6), Morgan (7) and Dinkle, Robbins (4), Dinkle (5), Robbins (6), Dinkle (7), Robbins (8); J. Thompson, Buchanan (4), Melton (9) and B. Thompson. W — Buchanan (1-0). L — Fisher (0-1). 3B — M: Ankeny.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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