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  • 23 Sep 2014

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Best record, second place for Legion team

Barbers battle back before falling to hot Medford Mustangs


The Portland Barbers came into the American Legion AAA state baseball tournament with the best record in the state. Unfortunately for them, they came up against the team playing the best baseball in the state.

After making it to championship round of the double-elimination tourney at Grants Pass, the Barbers needed to win two games against the Medford Mustangs to become the first Portland-area team to win a AAA Legion state title since Alpenrose Dairy (Wilson High) in 1988.

The Barbers, with players from Central Catholic, Madison, Liberty and Reynolds high schools, fell just short.

In the seventh inning, the score was still 0-0. Medford then put together a couple of bleeders, and things unraveled for the Barbers as Medford went on to win 6-1.

“They scored two in the eighth with two outs. Two check-swing singles fell in. Then they got a base hit, and that was it,” Barbers coach Joe Duran says. “The championship game was just a stalemate. They just kept running arms at us all tournament. We knocked them out of the tournament last year in Medford, so it was sweet revenge for them.

“I felt fortunate to get to the championship game, but you’re never happy when you get that far and lose,” Duran says. “I was happy how we played. They were the best team. The best team won the tournament. In two games, they held us to two runs. We scored 28 runs in the other three games. Medford was the best team. They had the whole package, and they got hot at the right time.”

The Barbers have been knocking at the door, trying to win a state title since Duran formed the team five years ago.

“In 2010, we were surprised to be in the state tournament,” Duran says. “In 2011, I knew we had a chance to win it, but I was just afraid to say it. Then 2012 was kind of an anomaly, kind of a funk year. Last year, I still believe we were the best team in the state, and we didn’t win it. This year, the best team in the state did win it.”

The Barbers, who finished the season 48-8, had to put together an incredible run to make the championship game.

Things were derailed in the first game of the tournament against Roseburg Dr. Stewart’s when the Barbers’ bats did not come alive in support of starting pitcher Ryan Kaser of Liberty. Duran had to use his ace Cole Stringer, of Central Catholic, to win the game 6-4, blowing Stringer for the following day.

“In the first game, we left 17 runners on base, which was uncharacteristic,” Duran says. “It was a one-run game, so we had to throw Stringer. Our starter, Kaser, was injured. Stringer was slotted to start against Medford in the second game of the tournament, but you have to win that first game. If you don’t win that first game you have to win eight games. If you do win the first game, the most you’ll have to win is six.”

Without the ability to use Stringer in game two, the Barbers were pounded 10-1 by Medford, dropping them into the loser’s bracket.

With their backs against the wall, the Barbers reverted to playing outstanding defense and having big innings. They stayed alive by defeating the Salem Withnell Dodgers 11-5.

“We played flawless defense,” Duran says. “We didn’t have a single error for three consecutive games. And we just went back to banging at the plate. We put a few crooked numbers up. That was our M.O. all year. Big innings.”

The Barbers then put themselves into the championship game with an 11-1 victory over the Corvallis Gerding Builders Marketmen.

“Lane Evans threw the best game of his career against Corvallis,” Duran says. “He allowed three hits, struck out nine and gave up one run in a complete game. It was cool because he was our co-pitcher of the year last year. But he took last spring off, and he kind of struggled the whole year. It took awhile to get his rhythm, but he found it just in time.”

Heading into championship round, the Barbers again had to face Medford without Stringer, who was playing in the elite Area Code Games.

“He would’ve been available for a final game against

Medford,” Duran says. “It would’ve been a whole different ballgame.”

The Barbers got a big performance at the plate throughout the tournament from catcher Mak Hutton of Madison, who finished the week hitting .600.

“It was a cool story because he hadn’t caught for a whole year until this summer,” Duran says. “Then he caught 45 of 48 games this summer. It was impressive.”

The Barbers also relied on the defense of shortstop Jay Rogers of Reynolds.

“Jay Rogers, most games he looked like the best player on the field,” Duran says. “He had one error in 41 attempts at shortstop. He’s been our best defensive player all year. He played excellent defense.”