The stage has been set for Wednesday’s American Legion State Championship. The Eugene Challengers beat the Withnell Dodgers 14-8, and the Dallas Dirtbags ensured that there will be a new state champion, taking down the Medford Mustangs 6-2, ending the Mustangs reign as state champs.
It was in the first game of the semifinal round between the Challengers and Dodgers. The two teams combined for 23 hits and 22 runs, with the Challengers pulling off the come from behind win, beating the Dodgers 14-8.
Withnell built a 6-4 lead into the fourth inning and then extended the lead four runs after its half of the inning when Noah Ferguson doubled to drive in Kaiden Doten and Brock McMullen.
The Dodgers wouldn’t score another run the rest of the way. The Challengers were just getting started. Eugene scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Beau Burnett’s Triple to score Johnathan Prescott tied the game at eight runs apiece. Two pitches later, Burnett would score on a wild pitch from Jake Davidson, which would prove to be the winning run.
For insurance, the Challengers added four more runs in the fifth inning with Kellar Edwards scoring two will a double to left field and CJ Townsend driving home two more with a single. For good measure, Eugene tacked on another run in the sixth.
The Challenger bullpen closed the door on a possible Dodger comeback. Trent Keller and Hayden Brooke combined for three innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits.
Behind a strong pitching performance from Kaleb Dantola and three RBIs from Erik Swanson, the Dallas Dirtbags advanced to the title game.
Dantola was nearly unhittable against the Mustangs, allowing just three hits over six complete innings. He struck out eight, gave up two earned runs and walked two on 101 pitches.
Medford’s one-run lead after Bennett Thompson’s RBI to score Darin Marsh would last long. The first Dallas batter, Jacob Maiben homered on a 3-1 pitch, sending the ball over the centerfield fence.
With the score tied at two apiece entering the bottom of the third inning, Swanson broke the game open with a base-clearing double to score Emiliarno Alarcon, Maiben and Connor Laeng.
Kantola and relief pitcher Hector Amador didn’t allow another run the final four innings to clinch a spot in the title game.
Should the Dirtbags win the 1 p.m. matchup, they will take home the state crown. If the Challengers win, the two teams will play again at 4 p.m. for the title.
Dallas beat Eugene on Sunday, winning 8-5.