Medford flirted with disaster for 412 innings Tuesday night, only to right the ship just in time to earn an improbable victory and clinch its third straight Area 4 title in American Legion AAA baseball.

Medford flirted with disaster for 41/2 innings Tuesday night, only to right the ship just in time to earn an improbable victory and clinch its third straight Area 4 title in American Legion AAA baseball.

The Mustangs trailed Grants Pass 8-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning of Tuesday's twin-bill opener at Harry & David Field — and was behind 8-4 leading into their final at-bat — before rallying in dramatic fashion for a 9-8 triumph.

In the nightcap, Ian Kendall's two-run triple and solid pitching by Neil Emerson allowed the Mustangs to sweep the Nuggets with a 6-3 victory.

In Game 1, Medford (33-7, 12-2 Area 4) used a one-out single by Kendall and an RBI double by Griff Boyd to breathe life into a potential comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Matt Maurer then drew a walk from Nuggets reliever Bruce Sanford to close the latter's night, and Hayden Wolfe won a nine-pitch battle with Ryan Hayden for another walk to load the bases.

After Hayden battled back from a 3-1 count to strike out pinch-hitter Lewis Sebrell, Max Gordon supplied a two-run double down the left-field line to trim Medford's deficit to 8-7.

Chris Bradshaw found himself in a 0-2 hole but was able to fend off pitch after pitch to make the count full with two outs. On the 10th pitch of his at-bat, Bradshaw sent a grounder up the third-base line that recently inserted third baseman Ray Madrigal fielded, but his throw pulled first baseman Zach Morgan off the bag. Morgan's attempt at a catch coincided with Bradshaw barreling up the line and, after a collision, the ball fell innocently to the ground and two runs scored to clinch the unlikely comeback.

Between games — and to sum up how the Mustangs were able to turn the opener around — Medford manager Sandee Kensinger simply smiled, turned his hat sideways and lifted up both hands with a shrug of his shoulders.

That response could've easily gone for how Medford started things Tuesday, with ace pitcher Jordan Lewis suffering through his worst outing as a Mustang.

The left-hander entered the game with a program-best 38-4 record and career ERA under 2.00 but allowed 11 hits and eight runs — six earned — in 4 2/3 innings. Medford's rally allowed him to avoid suffering his first Area 4 loss since July 10, 2007.

Grants Pass (2-10 Area 4) deserved as much credit for Lewis' struggles, with the Nuggets getting two hits apiece from Nos. 1-4 hitters Ryan Miller, Morgan, Brandon Drury and Hayden and No. 9 hitter Keith Suits. Miller, Morgan and Drury each scored twice, while Hayden had two RBIs.

Crater High graduate Craig Kathol kept Medford at bay for the most part during his time on the mound, allowing one run in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth before giving way to Sanford. The right-hander struck out four and kept the Mustangs off balance.

Medford scored its first run on an RBI single by Isaac Rolie in the fourth and then tacked on two more with Boyd's two-run single to left field. Rolie then led off the sixth with a single and, one out later, pinch-runner Wolfe scored on a single to right field by Gordon.

As the Mustangs crept back in the game, relief pitcher Bradey Shipley played a pivotal role by holding Grants Pass without a hit over the final 2 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out three, and an error led to the only baserunner he allowed.

Boyd finished 3-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs in the opener, while Gordon was 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs.

Kendall's first-inning triple in Game 2 allowed him to hit safely in his 12th straight game, and he has now hit safely in 30 of the 33 games he's played with the Mustangs. Earle added a fielder's choice RBI and solo home run to go with three runs scored in the nightcap.

Boyd's sacrifice fly in the third made it 4-0, but Morgan jumped on an Emerson offering for a two-run homer to cut the Nuggets' deficit in half in the top of the fifth. After Earle's homer off Jordan Decker put the lead at 5-2, Maurer blasted an RBI double to cap the fifth inning.

Emerson had 11 strikeouts and only five hits allowed through six innings.

FIRST GAME

Grants Pass Nuggets 103 040 0 — 8 11 1

Medford Mustangs 000 121 5 — 9 11 2

Kathol, Sanford (6), Hayden (7) and Robinson; Lewis, Shipley (5) and Sowers. W — Shipley (5-1). L — Hayden. 2B — GP: Drury, Suits; M: Boyd, Gordon. 3B — GP: Morgan.

SECOND GAME

Grants Pass Nuggets 000 020 1 — 3 5 0

Medford Mustangs 202 020 x — 6 10 1

Decker, Bars (5) and Robinson; Emerson, Kendall (7) and L. Sebrell. W — Emerson (6-0). L — Decker. 2B — GP: Dean 2; M: Gordon, Maurer. 3B — M: Kendall. HR — GP: Morgan; M: Earle (4).

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com