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...
Katie Ramsay didn't have much time.
Fortunately for the North Medford softball team, she didn't need much.
The Black Tornado senior catcher stretched all-out for a diving catch near the third-base line during the first game of a doubleheader against South Medford on Saturday. Rachael Moore, who had reached first with a single, was sprinting down the base path as Ramsay corralled the pop-up, quickly recovered and threw to second for the improbable double play.
"It's just a reaction," Ramsay said. "You're always looking to make the next play."
Her move denied the Panthers in the top of the sixth inning, and a South throwing error allowed Grace Jovanovic to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning.
Things went similarly well for North most of the afternoon.
The Black Tornado took the opener, 3-1, before using a five-run third inning to earn a 7-2 victory in Game 2 in Southern Oregon Hybrid action at North Medford.
North (15-1, 6-0 SOH) benefitted from some show-stopping plays — like Ramsay's defensive gem and Joci Ellis' inside-the-park home run in Game 1 — while feeding off of two strong outings from senior Alexis Barkwell.
The Dixie State-bound pitcher threw a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts and four walks in the opener. Her Game 2 numbers weren't as good (six strikeouts with eight hits and five walks), but she did not allow an earned run all day and got her squad out of some pickles.
"We worked well as a team," said Barkwell, who is 13-1.
The Panthers (7-10, 2-6) stranded 16 runners on Saturday, including 12 in Game 2. South loaded the bases in the top of the first inning of the second game but came away empty handed.
"You have to capitalize," South head coach Miranda Gillespie-Smith said. "We had a couple of opportunities but didn't execute."
In the opener, South went ahead in the top of the first on a Hannah Newman RBI single up the middle.
Ellis smashed her game-tying homer to left-center field with two outs in the third. There were no errors committed as she raced home.
"I couldn't have put up a sign that would have stopped her from coming home," North head coach Mike Mayben said. "The effort level was tremendous."
North took a 2-1 lead with one out in the bottom of the sixth after a South infielder caught a pop-up but overthrew to third with Jovanovic on base, allowing Jovanovic to score. Keisha Williams followed with a triple to right and Ramsay then pounded an RBI single, making it 3-1 Black Tornado.
Ramsay was 2-for-3 for North in the opener. Newman went 2-for-3 for South.
"I was impressed with the composure of the kids," Mayben said.
In the second game, Barkwell's sacrifice fly plated Ellis in the bottom of the first. A North throwing error in the top of the second inning allowed Bailee Tatum to score and tie the contest.
The wheels came off in the third for South. The Panthers stranded runners at the corners with a strikeout by Barkwell. North then erupted with the bat in its hands, cycling through the lineup as Barkwell hit a two-run double, Ramsay a two-run single and Megan Cowden an RBI single.
Tatum scored on another Tornado error in the fourth after reaching on a double.
Jovanovic added an RBI single in the sixth.
Ellis finished 2-for-2 with three runs while reaching base four times. Barkwell went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Janelle Rodgers 2-for-3 for North.
Tatum was 2-for-4 for the Panthers.
South freshman pitcher Pat Moore tossed a five-hitter with nine strikeouts and one walk in the opener and allowed 10 hits and four walks while fanning two in Game 2.
South Medford 100 000 0 — 1 4 2
North Medford 001 002 x — 3 5 1
Moore and Garrett; Barkwell and Ramsay. W — Barkwell (12-1). L — Moore (7-8). 3B — NM: Williams. HR — NM: Ellis.
South Medford 010 100 0 — 2 8 1
North Medford 105 001 x — 7 10 3
Moore and Garrett; Barkwell and Ramsay. W — Barkwell (13-1). L — Moore (7-9). 2B — SM: Tatum, Garrett; NM: Barkwell.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt