PORTLAND - Playing some of their best ball of the season, the Milwaukie Mustangs knocked off PIL runner-up Madison 4-2 in a May 18 second-round play-in game of the OSAA Class 5A baseball playoffs.
The win gained the Mustangs, who finished fifth in the Northwest Oregon Conference, a berth in the 16-team state 5A playoffs. Ranked 21st in the state, Milwaukie was to begin the playoffs this afternoon, playing fourth-ranked North Eugene (19-7) on the road. Should Milwaukie win today, the Mustangs will advance to Friday's 5A quarterfinals, where they'll take on the winner of a contest between sixth-ranked Wilsonville (20-6) and 16th-ranked Lebanon (16-11).
'We've come a long way since the beginning of the season,' said Milwaukie coach Dan Lee, whose Mustangs take an overall record of 11-14 into today's game. 'The best thing about the kids is they don't feel like they're finished. They're proud of what they've accomplished, but they want to accomplish more.'
Lee said that ace right-hander Keenan Middleton would get the start in today's game.
'As long as we get a week between games, Keenan's going to keep getting the ball,' Lee said.
Middleton, who was a starter on the Mustangs' history-making basketball team, was in form in Milwaukie's May 18 game at Madison, striking out eight and walking three, while scattering five hits.
But Middleton didn't win the game by himself. He got plenty of help form a defense that played error-free ball and from an offense that got seven hits and that made their hits count.
Trailing 1-0, the Mustangs knotted the score at 1-1 in the top of the third, scoring on a double by Zach Enriquez (2-for-3), a base hit by Jason Espinoza (2-for-4), and a balk.
Madison got the run back and went up 2-1 with a single tally in the bottom of the fourth.
But there was no quit in the Mustangs. Enriquez and Espinoza started a fifth inning rally with back-to-back singles.
With two down in the fifth, Middleton walked to load the bases.
Milwaukie catcher Blake Sanders then plated the winning run with a two-run, line-drive double down the left-field line.
Andrew Marquez added a run-scoring single, and the Mustangs had their 4-2 winning tally.
Still it took some standout defensive play in the last of the seventh for the Mustangs to hang on for the victory.
Madison led off the seventh with a base hit. The next batter sent a ground ball deep in the hole at shortstop. The throw to second was off the mark. Madison's baserunner, apparently believing that the throw had gotten through to the outfield, headed for third. However Milwaukie second baseman Ryan Harp, who had knocked the errant throw down, rifled the ball to Steven Yerman at third in time to put the tag on the lead baserunner.
The Senators followed with another base hit. And a passed ball put runners at second and third with one down.
The next batter attempted a safety squeeze, but bunted the ball straight back to Middleton. Instead of going to first, Middleton fired to Yerman at third, catching the baserunner off the bag.
The next batter popped up to Sanders behind the dish, and the Mustangs celebrated the victory.