It was what the Medford Mustangs didn’t do with their baseball bats that made the biggest impression to open the inaugural Coach K Memorial Tournament against Corvallis Thursday at Harry & David Field.
Typically a team prone to spraying the ball around the park with aplomb, the Mustangs took a more controlled approach and found similarly positive results in securing a 14-2, seven-inning victory over the visiting Marketmen.
Medford drew 12 walks — five with the bases loaded to score runs — and helped fill the bags on three hit batters to capitalize on an off night by the Corvallis Gerding Builders pitchers. In fact, the Mustangs (10-3) utilized only two RBI base hits in building an 11-0 cushion through five innings.
“I didn’t know it was that bad, I thought we were hitting a little better than that,” said Medford first baseman Joe Johnson, who finished 3-for-4 with four runs and two RBIs. “But I guess we were just taking advantage of the pitcher struggling a little bit to find the zone. Sometimes you’ve just got to take what the pitcher’s giving you. If he’s all over the place, you just try to not help him out and try to take your bases when you can get them.”
That happened early and often as Corvallis starter Nolan Jackson struggled to consistently find the plate in the second inning and things snowballed against the Marketmen (4-7). Medford scored a pair of runs in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Jack Thompson and a balk call, then added three more in the second by virtue of run-scoring walks by Thompson, Justin Geyer and Wyatt Baptiste after the bases were loaded on a Jon-o Gassman single, Johnson walk and Brennen Watts hit by pitch.
“We did a good job at the plate being disciplined,” said Mustangs manager Nate Mayben. “There were a lot of walks so we got a lot of free runs there, but that’s a good job of not getting impatient and swinging at a lot of pitches.”
Baptiste’s RBI single in the fourth inning proved to be Medford’s first base hit for a run, and Dylan Marsh added another in the fifth inning when his drive to center field eluded the diving efforts of Ryan Hall and resulted in a three-run double during a five-run frame.
Medford’s only other RBI base hit came in the sixth inning when Johnson laced a two-run triple into the right field corner to ensure the 10-run mercy rule would be in place for the seventh inning.
“We’ve been hitting really well and we have a good team approach,” said Johnson, who entered the game with a .435 batting average. “We’ve been really good at getting guys on to start the inning and driving guys in, we’ve just got to stay focused and keep staying hot.”
Marsh finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, Gassman was 2-for-2 and reached base all four times and Baptiste was walked three times to go with his RBI single to join Watts, Thompson and Geyer in posting two RBIs overall.
“I liked our energy tonight,” said Mayben. “I thought that we did a good job of playing all the way through. In those games, you can start to relax and just sit back and all of a sudden you boot a ball and then it becomes a really long game. We did a good job of staying with it, staying focused and having good energy.”
With Thursday night being the start of the four-day memorial tournament in honor of former Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger, who passed away last August at age 59, Johnson said it was important for the team to offer up a good showing at Harry & David Field.
“We wanted to play well for all the people that knew him and all the people that have been supporting us since he was around,” said Johnson. “There’s a long tradition and a long history with Coach K and the Mustangs so we’re just trying to give back by playing well.”
All that run support was more than enough for starter Jacob Melton, who allowed only two hits with three walks and three strikeouts to earn his first win of the summer.
“Melton did a great job on the hill, that was really nice to see,” said Mayben. “We’re trying to work him in slowly and got him up to around 60 pitches today so I think he’ll be ready for next week because he looked solid.”
The Mustangs also got a nice first look at Liam Serean, who joined the team Thursday and settled into the mix in the sixth inning. Facing some understandable nerves, Serean allowed two runs on three hits with two strikeouts, making his best pitches after serving up an RBI double by James Anderson that snapped Corvallis’ scoreless drought.
The Phoenix product struck out Leid in the next at-bat, then gave up a bloop RBI single to Aaron Osborne before striking out Kyle Killen to end the threat.
“For him it was just settling in and maybe getting that knock to say, ‘OK, here we go,’” said Mayben. “It was good to see for a kid that we bring in the first day — and hasn’t been around us at all — to be able to come in and throw strikes, that’s a big battle right there in itself. He did a great job.”
Ethan Whitney came on in the seventh to nail down the win with two strikeouts.
In earlier tournament action, the Grants Pass Cavemen won 8-6 over the Klamath Falls Falcons in a contest shortened to seven innings.
Medford and Grants Pass will meet in another planned seven-inning game at 7 p.m. tonight, with Corvallis and Klamath Falls playing beforehand at 4 p.m.
Jackson, Killen (5), Osborne (6) and Williams; Melton, Serean (6), Whitney (7) and Geyer, B. Thompson (7). W — Melton (1-0). L — Jackson. 2B — C: Anderson; M: Johnson, Gassman, Marsh. 3B — M: Johnson.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry