Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
North Medford pitcher Maryssa Becker called it "a team effort."
And when Becker plays like she did Monday, that team is almost unbeatable.
The senior threw a one-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts in the circle and belted two home runs at the plate to power top-ranked North Medford to an 8-0 victory over Lakeridge in the first round of the Class 6A state softball playoffs at North Medford High.
"We were just really excited to get the win and keep moving forward and take it a day at a time," said Becker, who delivered 93 pitches in picking up her 22nd win of the season without a loss. "I think that our energy has been really good this past week in practice. We were just ready to play."
The win, the Black Tornado's 20th in a row, advances North (25-1) to the round of 16, where it will face Southern Oregon Hybrid rival Roseburg at 4 p.m. Wednesday at home. Roseburg (16-8), the SOH runner-up, beat Canby 5-1 in another first-round game.
In three meetings this year, North has beaten Roseburg 8-0, 8-0 and 7-0.
Against Lakeridge, Becker took charge from the opening minutes and never let up, retiring five of the first six batters on strikes and cranking a two-run bomb to center in the bottom of the first that proved to be all the run support she would need. Grace Jovanovic added an RBI triple in the second, Hannah Leming singled home another run in the fourth and Becker fittingly stamped on the exclamation point, a two-run line-drive homer to left in the sixth that drew a head-shaking smile out of Lakeridge relief pitcher Chase Pearson.
"I don't know how that got over the fence," Becker said.
Becker was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs and was one of four Tornado players with multiple hits. North racked up 12 hits against Lakeridge starter Kalin Rooney and Pearson.
Leming, batting leadoff, was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run, Katie Williamson was 2-for-3 and Jovanovic, batting ninth, was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run.
Becker came inches away from tossing a perfect game. Annie Griffin had the Pacers' only hit in the third inning when her popped-up bunt landed just inside the first-base line, out of the reach of both Becker and North catcher Williamson. Griffin was tagged out at second moments later, and the Pacers didn't have another runner.
"Becker is pretty poised," North Medford head coach Mike Mayben said. "That's part of our focus this year — stay poised, stay confident, but also know that your opponent can come out and get you at any time. It doesn't matter where you're ranked in the state, you're going to get the best out of everybody. So getting on the board early kind of lets you relax a little bit."
"(Becker) was dominant," Lakeridge coach Duane Witter added. "And you can't take anything away from (North Medford). They're well-schooled, they're well-coached."
Rooney surrendered five runs, all earned, on nine hits in three innings before Pearson took over with two on and nobody out in the fourth. Pearson gave up two earned runs on three hits in three innings.
Becker's first-inning homer came against a 3-1 count and cleared the fence by at least 20 feet.
North was looking to add to that lead in the second when Michelle Draper started a rally by drawing a one-out walk. Rooney then fell behind 2-0 to Jovanovic, who spanked the next pitch to the left-field wall for a stand-up triple and a 3-0 North Medford lead. Jovanovic later scored on Joci Ellis' groundout to short.
In the fourth, Draper led off with a single, which led to a run when pinch runner Maddie Gates scored on Leming's single. The second run of the inning scored on Becker's popout.
"The biggest thing about this team is they've got a lot of poise," Mayben said, "and we're not feeling that ebb and flow of games. They're not way up high for a couple innings and then down for a couple innings. We're really playing pretty even-keeled."
Lakeridge 000 000 0 — 0 1 1
North Medford 220 202 x — 8 12 0
Becker and Williamson; Rooney, Pearson (4) and McCord. W — Becker (22-0). L — Rooney. 3B — NM: Jovanovic. HR — NM: Becker 2 (7).