Mustangs meet Yakima in Best of the West opener

North Medford High supplied the Medford Mustangs with most of its roster this summer, and no wonder: the Black Tornado won 27 of 30 games and claimed the Class 6A state championship earlier this month.

But a couple of players from South Medford — pitcher Jared Smith and third-baseman Griff Boyd — have gotten off to strong starts as the Mustangs prepare for the third annual Best of the West Wood Bat Challenge.

The eight-team tournament, sponsored by Carpet Mart, begins today and continues through Sunday at Harry and David Field in Medford and Kiger Stadium in Klamath Falls.

Medford hosts Yakima, Wash., at 7 p.m. today at Harry and David and Klamath Falls meets Fairfield, Calif., at 6 at Kiger in opening-round games.

Smith, who failed to receive any mention in Southwest Conference all-star balloting, hasn't given up an earned run and has recorded 14 strikeouts in 12 innings. He held Klamath Falls scoreless in a three-inning relief stint on June 12 and contained Hillsboro to five hits over six innings in a 4-2 win last Friday.

"He didn't show up at sign-ups but he came to the tryouts and we're certainly glad he did," said Medford manager Sandee Kensinger of Smith. "He's had really good command of his pitches and against Klamath, he flat-out dominated.

"He has one of those classic breaking pitches that drops off the table."

Boyd, meanwhile, is batting .417 with nine RBIs and has worked himself from the No. 8 spot in the lineup to No. 5.

"Griffin was in the shadows of some other kids last season and didn't get to play much or pitch much," Kensinger said. "This year, he's really motivated to be an impact player.

"He's going to the plate with a lot of confidence right now."

The strength of the Mustangs (7-4) thus far has been pitching. Led by left-handers Jordan Lewis (2-0) of Phoenix and Matt Maurer (0-1) of North Medford, Medford boasts a team earned run average of 1.86. Shea Bedortha (2-0) , Logan Odom (1-1), Derek Grieve (0-0) and Smith round out the crux of the staff.

Odom also leads the Mustangs in hitting with a .429 average.

"Our staff is overall pretty young but we've got some good, live arms," said Kensinger.

Maurer, who got the win in North Medford's 3-2 state championship victory over Westview on June 2, will get the start today against Yakima.

Maurer, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament last fall that prevented him from batting or playing in the field with the Black Tornado, has been getting some at-bats and fielding action the past two weeks with the North Medford Mavericks, a feeder team for North Medford High and the Mustangs.

"He needs the fine-tuning at first base and so we've been letting him play on both teams," explained Kensinger, "but he'll be with us for the entire tournament. He's one of our top guys."

Lewis has emerged as the team's ace. The Phoenix High senior-to-be has allowed only 10 hits in 16 innings with 22 strikeouts and just two walks. Like Smith, he has yet to yield an earned run.

Medford will welcome back Grieve for the wood bat tournament. Grieve, an outfielder when he's not pitching, has been in Alaska the past 10 days playing in a college-caliber league.

In Yakima, the Mustangs will be playing a team steeped in baseball tradition but struggling this season. The Beetles have won just three of 12 games, although they're coming off a 15-3 win over the Spokane Dodgers in the fifth-place game of the Mike Hagert Memorial Tournament Sunday in Selah, Wash.

Brad Gordon hit a three-run homer to spark the Beetles' victory.

Last July, Medford edge Yakima, 11-9, in the championship game of the Yakima Firecracker Tournament.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail

Share This Story