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 top-seeded North Medford softball team was taught a lesson last week.
On Tuesday, it did the schooling.
After losing to Grants Pass and having an 18-game winning streak snapped on May 15, the Black Tornado recovered by trouncing Sunset, 10-0 in five innings, in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs at North Medford High.
Senior pitcher Maryssa Becker, who tossed a no-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and one walk against the Apollos, said the team learned a thing or two about itself after falling to the Cavers in the nonleague tune-up for state.
"I think it made us a little hungrier," said Becker. "It was a realization for us that we have to come out and attack every team like they are the best team in the state, and not have one of those days where we just decide not to show up. So it was more of a realization or a warning for us that we are not invincible. Things can happen. But you also have to let it go and move past that and get better every day."
The defending state champions did just that, tallying 10 hits and ending the contest early on Joci Ellis' RBI double during North's five-run fifth inning. The Black Tornado (25-2) will next host Southridge — another Metro League opponent — in the second round on Wednesday. The Skyhawks (15-12) beat Thurston, 7-2, in their first-round contest and advanced to the quarterfinal round last year.
North Medford afforded roasting fans the opportunity to escape the sun early in the fifth. After Katie Ramsay grounded out, Katie Williamson got on base with a walk and Alexis Barkwell then singled. Courtesy runner Sarah Thomas scored on a wild pitch before Keisha Williams drew a walk to load the bases. Next, Michelle Draper drove in Barkwell, Grace Jovanovic pounded a two-run double and Ellis sealed the deal with an RBI double placed just past the outstretched arm of Sunset's left fielder.
"We were just hitting the ball and stringing hits together and getting runs in," Ellis said. "It was nice to drive in the last run. I was just trying to make contact and go with it."
The Black Tornado jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning on RBI singles by Becker and Williamson and a two-run double by Williams. Maddie Gates made it 5-0 an inning later after scoring during a rundown situation.
Becker and Draper each finished 2-for-3.
"It is just important to bounce back with some energy and get after this team," North head coach Mike Mayben said. "This team wasn't going to come and lay down. They were going to compete. And they did that."
Becker, who improved to 15-1, only allowed two runners to reach base. Neither made it beyond first.
"It felt pretty good," Becker said. "I knew I wasn't throwing as hard as I wanted to, but I found a rhythm and knew my defense would be behind me and made a couple good plays today. And they are a good hitting team, so Katie (Williamson) and I knew we had to come out and put the ball in a good spot."
Sunset finished the year 4-22.
"The (North) program itself, starting with Larry (Binney) is a great program," Sunset head coach Spencer Mills said. "First class all the way. When I first started coaching I looked at this program and that is what I wanted to do at Sunset."
Sunset 000 00 — 0 0 3
North Medford 410 05 — 10 10 1
ApRoberts, J. Stewart (2) and Harrison, D. Stewart (2); Becker and Williamson. W — Becker (15-1). L — ApRoberts. 2B — NM: Becker, Williams, Jovanovic, Ellis.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org