Eugene’s rally magic that happened in Medford on Monday night apparently stayed there for the Challengers’ doubleheader rematch with the Mustangs.
The comeback mojo didn't make the return trip to Swede Johnson Stadium.
After scoring nine runs in the last two innings for a 9-5 victory to salvage a split at Harry & David Field, Eugene totaled just three while being swept by the American Legion Area 4 leaders, 16-1 in six innings and 10-2, on Tuesday night.
“I think just kind of a little bit of everything, but give Medford a ton of credit,” Challengers coach Josh Riley said. “We were flat all night long. For our standpoint, it’s some of the worst baseball we’ve played all summer.
“Again, not to take anything away from Medford, because they played extremely well, but we just didn’t come out to compete tonight.”
Medford scored five times in the first inning of the opener, which proved to be more than enough for left-hander Joe Johnson, who threw five strong innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced. Jack Thompson drove in four runs and four other Mustangs had two RBIs apiece.
In the second game, Justin Geyer’s five RBIs backed the eight-hit pitching of lefty Jacob Melton. In their three wins over the Challengers in four games, the Mustangs (33-9, 13-3 Area 4) outscored Eugene 38-7 and collected 43 total hits. Johnson went 4-for-4 in the nightcap with a solo home run and two doubles.
“They’re obviously in first place in our league for a reason,” Riley said, “and they came out and competed really well tonight.”
The Mustangs won for the 13th time in 14 games after the Challengers (21-19, 7-9) had snapped their 11-game winning streak the previous night. The big blow during a seven-run sixth inning was Kyle Lund’s bases-loaded triple for the go-ahead runs with two outs to erase a 5-0 deficit.
However, all the scoring Eugene could muster in Tuesday’s opener came on Prestin White’s RBI single to score Cole Wilkinson in the first inning. The Challengers loaded the bases in the second against Johnson to no avail, and he went on to strike out six of his next 10 batters.
“Being able to ride the momentum of winning (the second game) last night, we should have been able to compete more,” Riley said. “No excuses. We just didn’t show up and get it done tonight.”
In the sixth inning, the first eight Mustangs to bat reached base and scored before Eugene could record an out. Starter Lucas Jackson, who lasted 4 ⅔ innings and gave up eight runs, six earned, took the loss.
Trent Keeler was 2-for-3 and was the only Challenger to have more than one of their five hits.
Medford led 7-0 in the second game before White drove in Wilkinson again with a double. Mason Crowson went 3-for-3 and scored Eugene’s final run in the seventh, and Keeler was 2-for-4 with a double.
The Mustangs, who started the day with a three-game lead in Area 4, finish their season this weekend with home-and-home doubleheaders against Roseburg, which is in second place. Medford, which is going for its second straight Area 4 title and the automatic berth to the state tournament, has won the last four Legion state championships.
With Roseburg already assured of a spot in the eight-team field as the state tournament host, the Challengers are fighting to hang on to third place so they can host a best-of-three super regional against the fourth-place team in Area 4.
Eugene ends its regular season with a Saturday doubleheader at Kiger Stadium against last-place Klamath Falls before the Falcons come to Swede Johnson for the final two games starting at 5 p.m.
Willamette Valley Titans split
Wyatt Sayles walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Willamette Valley Titans a 3-2 win in the second game and a doubleheader split with Roseburg Doc Stewarts at Hamlin Sports Complex.
Roseburg scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to win the opener, 6-3.
In the nightcap, the Titans (15-21, 7-9 Area 4) loaded the bases with three walks and Jace Croff walked home with the winning run when Sayles, who was 3-for-5, walked.
Zach Hart and Trey Nelson also had RBIs in the nightcap for the Titans, and Bryce Boettcher was 2-for-4.
Sayles also got the pitching win by going the final five innings and allowing four hits, two walks and striking out two. Starter Trevor Duran threw four no-hit innings before Sayles came on.
In the opener, Hart drove in two runs and Nelson had an RBI. Cade Bates went the first eight innings on the mound for Willamette Valley, striking out eight, walking one and allowing seven hits.