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...
The North Medford softball team let out a cheer near its dugout before heading into the bottom of the second inning against South Medford.
"One, two, three, score some more!" they shouted.
The battle cry proved quite prophetic.
The Black Tornado used offensive surges in the second and third innings to defeat the Panthers 10-0 in five innings at North Medford High on Tuesday. Keisha Williams' two-run single to left-center field in the fourth put her squad ahead by double digits and helped to end the Southern Oregon Hybrid contest early.
The Black Tornado (15-1, 6-0 SOH) had gone a week without playing in a game and was again missing injured starting third baseman Katie Ramsay, but none of that mattered. The defending Class 6A state champions posted three runs in the second and four more in the third.
"As long as we put the ball in play and execute the things that we want to execute, whether it be stealing or just getting the ball in play, we just make sure we do that and we put a lot of time and focus into that," said Williams, a junior who finished 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
North head coach Mike Mayben moved Williams from center field to third and put junior reserve Jaycie Dickson at center after Ramsay hurt her ankle in a practice early this month. Senior utility player Emily Cary has filled the No. 8 spot in North's batting order the last few contests for the junior, who was a late scratch against her former team.
"We need her long term," said Mayben, adding that Ramsay (who transferred from South this year) should be ready when the squad plays next against Grants Pass on Tuesday. "We thought she would play today and it was still just a little too sore to round a base, plant and throw. ... We've shifted and made a few adjustments."
Mayben's moves have worked.
The Black Tornado tallied 13 hits and played error-free en route to its ninth straight triumph. Senior pitcher Maryssa Becker helped lead the way, going 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Cary finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs, Grace Jovanovic 2-for-3 with two runs and Katie Williamson — who was celebrating a birthday — chipped in an RBI and a run.
"It was really good to come out and hit the ball hard and just play solid defense," Mayben said. "We've actually struggled to play defense here and there and so to come out and play a good defensive game was good."
Cary's run-scoring single to left gave North a 5-0 advantage. Jovanovic followed that up with a two-run single to center and then Joci Ellis crushed an RBI triple in the same direction.
The University of Louisville-bound Becker tossed a two-hitter with nine strikeouts and no walks. She owned a perfect game until junior Brittany Miller just beat out a throw to first by Ellis.
"I was really focusing on trying to get them to hit," Becker said. "And I don't think that anybody made a mistake on that play. I think she hit the ball hard. She's a very quick kid and Joci made a great play and a great throw and everything. I think overall it happened, and so you just move on to the next batter. And props to her for hustling down the basepath. Joci's a really good infielder. That was a tough play."
Williams' decisive swing in the fourth came with no outs and the bases loaded. The single drove in Williamson and Becker.
"I was really just trying to focus on keeping my weight back and making sure I got the ball in play because I knew we needed to get those runs in," Williams said.
Hannah Newman had the other hit for the Panthers (4-14, 1-6), who remain in search of their second conference win after beating Crater 4-3 on March 23.
"We have the toughest conference," South head coach Miranda Gillaspie-Smith said. "You know you are going to be facing some of the toughest kids."
South Medford 000 00 — 0 2 1
North Medford 134 2x — 10 13 0
Newman and Garrett; Becker and Williamson. W — Becker (8-1). L — Newman (2-7). 3B — NM: Ellis.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com