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Medford Mustangs shortstop Zack Earle tags out a Roseburg runner during Game 1 of Friday’s American Legion doubleheader.

Mustangs salvage split

With his team having squandered a 5-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning, and already down one game in Friday's doubleheader, Medford Mustangs second baseman Dustin Smith knew he had to do something to stem the tide.

A leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth gave him that chance, and the veteran from Phoenix High took it from there in helping Medford rally for a 9-5 victory over Roseburg Dr. Stewarts in Game 2 at Harry & David Field.

Smith moved to second when Kory Locken successfully dropped down a bunt single and each player advanced on a wild pitch. Since his team had yet to score on a base hit in the nightcap, Smith anxiously waited for any opportunity to break the deadlock.

And, in fitting fashion for the night, that glimmer of a chance came on a swinging third strike to Griff Boyd that bounded past catcher Vince Ampi. He instantly broke toward home plate and slide safely just ahead of a tag by pitcher Dakota Cavens for the eventual game-winner.

"My job as a leadoff hitter is to make my way around the bases and score that run," said Smith. "When I saw that the ball bounced away from the catcher, I got a good jump on it. It was a close play, I guess."

It was also a pretty gutsy play, especially considering there were no outs and the Mustangs' heavy hitters were still due to the plate.

"Especially with the No. 4 hitter (Logan Odom) coming up ... I don't know if I would do it again," added Smith, "but I got a good jump on it, read it and I just knew we needed a run right there, no matter what."

Odom followed with a two-run triple — his first of the summer — and eventually scored on another wild pitch to build Medford's cushion to 9-5, and Zack Earle secured the much-needed win by allowing only one hit in the seventh.

The Game 2 triumph helped ease some of the tension brought on by a 6-3 loss in the opener to Dr. Stewarts, and a slight limp into the postseason. After winning 20 straight games at one point, the Mustangs managed only a 3-3 record to close the regular season.

"Every win we can get helps that momentum, especially going into the state playoffs now," said Smith, who was 2-for-5 with two runs and one RBI in Friday's twin bill. "We really didn't have much to play for today because we already clinched the No. 1 seed (in Area 4), but we still want to go out there and win every game that we play no matter if it's league, nonconference, state playoff game or state championship game."

The Mustangs (37-8, 12-4 Area 4) will open the best-of-three American Legion AAA state playoffs at home Thursday against the Area 3 No. 3 representative, which has yet to be determined.

The Salem Withnell Dodgers beat Corvallis Richey's Market on Friday to earn a spot in Sunday's Area 3 championship final. Corvallis will play either Salem Post 9 or Florence today for the right to play the Dodgers in the final. Friday's Salem-Florence game was suspended due to darkness in the 11th with the game tied 9-9 and will be resumed at 11 a.m. today. The loser of today's latter game against Corvallis will face Medford.

"We're going to get a few days rest, which will be good for the pitching staff and everyone in general," said Smith. "Then we'll have some good practices and we'll take it from there. We've got the talent, we just need to put it together. I'm not worried about this group. It's a bunch of good ballplayers and a bunch of people that love the game."

The Mustangs proved that by finding a way in Game 2, scoring on sacrifice fly balls, fielder's choice grounders, wild pitches and a batter hit by a pitch leading up to the sixth-inning comeback.

"Tonight's an example of just one of those games you need to grind out," said Smith. "Roseburg's a good team — all the teams in our conference are good teams — and that's the game of baseball. Sometimes you don't get those hits but if you work hard and you hustle, you can make your own luck like tonight."

There wasn't much luck on Odom's side when he came to the plate after Smith's hustling effort. He had already gone head over heels over the short fence marking foul territory trying to nab a pop-up in Game 1 and, also in the opener, missed out on a grand slam by a few feet prior to grounding into an inning-ending double play. He was hitless in six at-bats and had only one RBI in the previous 16 games before breaking through in a big way — much to the delight of his teammates.

"That might be maybe one of two triples in his career," Smith said with a laugh.

The Medford second baseman set the tone early in Game 2 after the Mustangs stumbled through the opener, reaching on a leadoff single and then moving to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run effort by Locken. That allowed Boyd to plate Smith with a sacrifice fly.

After Roseburg (26-13, 7-7) answered in the second on a leadoff walk, two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly by Justin Counts, Medford went back at it in its half of the second with three more runs.

Jared Smith's leadoff double sparked the surge and Earle reached safely with one out when second baseman Johnny Farrington couldn't find his pop-up at sundown. After Dustin Smith worked a walk to load the bases, Locken plated the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice. Earle scored on a wild pitch and, after walks to Boyd and Odom, Kody Stevens was hit by a pitch to score Locken for a 4-1 lead.

A Lewis Sebrell sacrifice fly after a leadoff double by Kody Stevens made it 5-1 heading into the sixth, but Dr. Stewarts scrapped back with four runs to tie it on a two-run double by Jordan Guthrie and a two-out, two-run homer by Ampi to force Medford into a desparate situation in the bottom half of the sixth.

Jared Smith was 3-for-4 and did well to keep Roseburg at bay until the sixth after relieving Odom in the third, while Locken finished with two hits in the nightcap.

In the opener, Roseburg took a 4-0 lead before Medford finally got things figured out and tallied two runs in the fourth. Jared Smith plated John Adamson with a one-out double and later came around to score when Boone Farrington's throw on an infield single by Earle got by first baseman Derek Priestley.

The Mustangs tacked on another run in the sixth thanks to a one-out double by Colin Sowers, another single by Earle and a sacrifice fly by Dustin Smith.

Roseburg, however, was able to expand its 4-3 lead with a pair of runs in the seventh after a one-out double by Jordan Guthrie and an ensuing single by A.J. Royal to spark the surge. After a wild pitch advanced Royal, Bryson Norton followed with an RBI single against a drawn-in infield to chase starter Sam Gaviglio and Priestly greeted reliever Jordan Lewis with a deep sacrifice fly for the final tally.

Medford attempted a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh after consecutive singles by Stevens and Adamson, but Jared Smith was forced into a groundout to end the game.

Earle was 3-for-3 in Game 1 to lead Medford, while Boyd was 2-for-4.

FIRST GAME

Roseburg Dr. Stewarts 210 100 2 — 6 12 1

Medford Mustangs 000 201 0 — 3 11 1

Jackson and Guthrie; Gaviglio, Lewis (7) and Sowers. W — Jackson (7-0). L — Gaviglio (5-2). 2B — R: B. Farrington, Guthrie; M: J. Smith, Sowers.

SECOND GAME

Roseburg Dr. Stewarts 010 004 0 — 5 7 0

Medford Mustangs 130 014 x — 9 9 0

Thomson, Cavens (3) and Ampi; Odom, J. Smith (3), Earle (7) and L. Sebrell. W — J. Smith (5-1). L — Cavens (5-1). 2B — R: B. Farrington, Guthrie; M: J. Smith, Stevens. 3B — R: Ampi; M: Odom. HR — R: Ampi.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

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