By Jeremy McDonald
ROSEBURG, Ore.–Kaleb Kantola brought his best stuff to the State tournament Monday night versus Medford.
The two teams met twice in last year’s State Tournament that included the Championship Game with the Mustangs eeking out the title in the first game of the Championship Day.
But it was 2018, new faces and new teams as Kantola and Medford’s Ethan Whitney went to work on a relatively cool Monday night compare to the past few nights.
Through the first three innings, the two squads kept the other pretty much clean on the scoreboard with hits and runs considering the firepower both squads have with another.
“It was a good game, my defense helped me out a lot. I was trying to get ahead in each batter, just get ahead and I was working for me getting the first out of the inning is big against those guys. Especially an offensive team, great hitting team,” said Kantola.
His defense certainly did back him with the Maiben brothers, Peter Mendazona at third and Treve Earhart at first helped with groundballs. But Blake Arritola and Jackson Holstad too saw their fair share in the outfield whenever the Mustangs got ahold of a Kantola pitch.
“We knew (Kantola) was going to come out and have a great start, so our defense was great as usual. So it’s just every day, defense just comes out and backup every pitcher no matter who it is,” said Arritola.
There was adversity no doubt as both teams finished with a combined seven hits in the game, four for Medford and three for the Dirtbags; but it was a walk that proved to be the dagger in the fourth inning.
With the bases loaded with two outs, Kantola saw a 3-2 count with two outs on the board go against him resulting in a walk that scored a run. But instead of letting it effect him in a negative fashion, Kantola settled in and finished off the inning with only allowing that one run.
“Yeah at first I was mad that I walked him, then I have to comeback to the next batter and get him out because they could expand their lead even more,” said Kantola.
Post 20 had an golden opportunity to put the defending champions on the ropes even further than they were already doing with Arritola on third after his single, a sac-bunt by Derek Maiben and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Zellner that had the Dirtbags feet away from tying it at 1 in the sixth inning. But a pop-fly would negate the work in that inning as Post 20 couldn’t find the open-gap against Whitney and his defense.
“It’s frustrating just because we were hitting the ball all day just kind of right at people, and then the one inning we get close and it doesn’t fall. That’s how baseball is though, we could get mad but we had shots to do it,” said Arritola on the frustrations of the sixth inning.
Kantola capped a 101 pitch, seven-inning complete game gem with a 1, 2, 3 inning in the seventh, but the offense couldn’t land the dagger against the Mustangs as Post 20 falls 1-0.
And with them facing a familiar foe in Mid-Valley, a win will get them into Wednesday with them in striking distance in getting back to the Title Game, it starts with an old mantra to flush out Monday Night’s game.
“We got this thing we live by and it’s called ‘draw the line’ where you step over the line” starts Zellner. “You draw it and step over it and let the past behind and that’s what we’re going to do tonight. We’re going to do that and comeback tomorrow and play good baseball. Play against a good team in mid-Valley and a team we’ve competed against the last two years and we’re going to beat them and we’re going to play in the Championship Game against Medford again.”