Medford has a versatile but young crew chasing an 18th state crown
Medford Mustangs manager Nate Mayben looked at his list of potential returning players and those who could fill a void last August and smiled.
Of all the thoughts that crossed his mind, the overriding theme was simple: we’re not going anywhere.
An annual fixture when it comes to teams competing for the American Legion AAA State Championship, the Mustangs certainly have a lot to prove to live up to that optimism – but the talent is definitely there once again. for the Medford crew.
“I’m excited about the group of kids we have,” said Mayben, in his 12th season at the helm. “It will be a very young group and a very inexperienced group at this level, but I think we have some really talented kids.”
Last summer, the Mustangs saw their bid for a seventh straight state title dating back to 2014 come to an end in the championship final.
This summer, the number to focus on will be 18, as in an 18th state championship for a program that won 14 titles from 1991 to 2019.
“I think I have to wait and see to answer that,” Mayben said of the title hopefuls. “It’s a goal we will always have, but this group of guys have a lot to prove over the month of June to see where we are.”
“We’re young and we’ve got talent,” he added, “and I think we’re going to be a different team in July than we were in early June. I’m delighted to see the growth of these youngsters. guys. Are we realistic? No, I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we can get there.
The return of top 2021 contributors Cody Borraggine, Tanner Douglas, Jace Miller, Aiden Horsley, Jeremiah Robbins and Johnny King will lead the charge of optimism.
Borraggine was one of Medford’s most valuable performers, recording 61 2/3 innings on the mound with a 6-4 record and 3.63 ERA to go with a .409 batting average with 59 runs and 39 points produced.
“I’m thrilled to have Cody back,” Mayben said of the 2021 North Medford High graduate. as an everyday guy on center field. He’s really going to be a leader for us. He’s our only returning student at the university, so he has a lot to do there.
“Fortunately we also have a few guys coming back from last year’s squad,” the coach added, “but Cody will have to lead the way. He’s going to have to show those guys what it’s like at the top level. to work every day and spend the season leading by example.
Douglas played an equally important role as a pitcher and hitter last summer, posting a 7-1 record and a 3.11 ERA at the mound and a .402 batting with team highs of 66 runs and 63 RBIs. The recent South Medford High graduate expects to be a go-to at first base when not on the mound.
Miller (.341, 38 runs, 57 RBI), Horsley (.392, 36 runs, 42 RBI) and Robbins (.356, 21 runs, 30 RBI) give the Mustangs a proven hitting base to complement Borraggine and Douglas, while King hit .286 with 20 runs scored in limited action last summer.
Ten newcomers will seek to fill the voids left by deceased players, with nearly all enjoying at least two years of program eligibility.
“I’m really excited for the next two years,” said Mayben. “It’s going to be the start, I think, of a group of kids who are going to be there for two years, most of them, and being able to do certain things to develop and improve. It’s going to be fun because it will not be a single year for us, it will be a multi-year contract for us.
Cameron Sewell, Kyle Cope and Kaleb Long of South Medford are joined by North Medford duo Frankie Rutigliano and Colton Morgan, Owen Thompson and Triston Wallace of Cascade Christian, Beau Aldrich of St. Mary’s and Julius Bolstad of Phoenix and Monte Spence, of back to college, to complete the new arrivals. .
“Adding Cameron Sewell and Frankie Rutigliano to the roster will help us,” Mayben said. “I think they’re going to be key for us in midfield, so I’m excited about these guys.”
With Sewell, Rutigliano, Miller, King, Thompson and Long all infielders or third basemen, there will be plenty of players to plug in on any given day.
“Trying to figure out all these guys and how we’re going to work better together is going to be a fun puzzle to figure out,” Mayben said. “I think the infield is going to be interesting.”
This group only serves to spell out the main ingredient of this summer in terms of team strength, with athleticism and versatility at every turn.
“The versatility of this team is a big plus,” said the coach. “I think we can move guys around defensively to really get our top nine hitters in the lineup on a daily basis. And we have 12 guys who are pitching and playing one position and are really effective at those positions, so we have a lot of options.
As the athletic director of Cascade Christian High School, Mayben got to see the exploits of Thompson, Wallace and Aldrich first-hand last spring and he said the rise in play from the Class 3A level to high-flying competition would be an exciting transition for each.
Thompson’s versatility as a cornerman, receiver, outfielder and pitcher will be especially vital, while Wallace expects to team up with Robbins to give the Mustangs one of the best 1-2 combinations behind the plate they’ve ever had. have enjoyed for some time.
“They’re both good at the plate and defensively at receiving pitches and blocking home plate,” Mayben said. “I think Jeremiah and Triston can complement each other very well.”
With American Legion membership increasing—from 5,000 to 7,000 these days—Mustangs are feeding high schools in North Medford, South Medford, Ashland, Crater, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Cascade Christian, and St. Mary’s for potential players.
The Mustangs will play the majority of their home games at Lithia & Driveway Fields, with a handful of contests at North Medford High and a few at Harry & David Field, particularly for the annual Coach K Memorial which honors the former Mustangs manager Sandee Kensinger on June 23. -26.
Medford will host Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s at 6 p.m. Tuesday to kick off the season and the Klamath Falls Falcons at the same time Wednesday, with both games at L&D Field 9.
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Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneCody Borraggine is set to play a key role again this summer after his starring role on the mound and in the batting order last year.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneTanner Douglas drove in 63 RBIs last summer to lead the Mustangs and went 7-1 as a pitcher.
Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneJeremiah Robbins of North Medford returns to receiver for the Mustangs after hitting .356 with 30 RBIs last summer.