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Fresh off a pair of biting nine-inning losses to its cross-town rival, North Medford was determined to do everything it could to get back on track Tuesday — and it all started with senior starters Bryan Carbonell and Charlie Walker.
Carbonell pitched a four-hitter with no walks and Walker was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI to help guide the Black Tornado to a key 4-2 victory over Crater in the Southern Oregon Hybrid finale for both teams at North Medford High.
"Today was all on the effort and energy of our players," said North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe. "They decided that it was important and we had good leadership from Bryan and Charlie, our only two seniors that start for us. They decided that they better take the reins and start leading and that's what they did."
"Bouncing back from those two long ones we had on Saturday (against South Medford) showed a lot of character," added Wolfe. "A lot of teams may fold if they play 18 innings like that and don't win but they just made a decision to come out real focused."
The game didn't do anything to change the final league standings as Crater (15-7, 7-5 SOH) finished runner-up to Roseburg and North Medford (15-7, 6-6) placed third to earn the SOH's final automatic berth to the Class 6A state playoffs. What was at stake, however, was solid standing in the ever-important power rankings, with the Comets entering as the state's No. 4 team and the Black Tornado sitting seventh.
"Crater's a very, very good team and (head coach Jay Campbell's) done an outstanding job," said Wolfe. "They hit the ball and they've got some good players who are very athletic. For us to bounce back after Saturday and pick up this win is huge, especially in those power rankings where everyone wants to play a game or two at home. We're fortunate we got big hits and Bryan held them down and we were able to move forward and get that sour taste out of our mouths."
Taylor Raff and Walker each scored on a two-run double by Hayden Evans in the first but the Comets negated further damage when center fielder Cole Berriochoa threw out Evans at home plate following a single by David Crofton in his first at-bat of an injury-plagued season.
Crater answered with a pair of runs in the fourth when Blake Fahndrich's single up the middle plated Sebastian Reynolds and Corey Wynant. Reynolds had reached on his second double of the game.
The Tornado responded right away to go up 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Walker singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Jared Evans.
A two-out double by Walker in the fifth scored Raff for an insurance run for Carbonell, who retired 12 of the final 13 batters — the lone hiccup when a Comet reached on an error.
"We only had four hits and it's hard to win any game when you only have four hits," said Campbell. "Our approach at the plate wasn't real strong today and we didn't make an adjustment and when you do that you're going to limit yourself and your opportunities. We didn't have a whole lot of opportunities to get the job done."
Crater 000 200 0 — 2 4 0
North Medford 200 110 x — 4 6 1
Painter, Fox (6) and Aplin; Carbonell and Zavala. W — Carbonell (7-1). L — Painter (3-2). 2B — C: Reynolds 2; NM: Walker, H. Evans.