When you’re on a winning team, it’s easy to maintain your competitive spirit.
Practices become more tolerable, gearing up for...
Right-handed in every other facet of her life, Grace Jovanovic was 10 when she converted into a left-handed batter because of her speed.
The process was tough, the North Medford junior outfielder recalled.
"It was really hard just to learn how to get the footwork down and all of that," she said. "Now it doesn't faze me."
She and her teammates sent hits in every direction in an 11-1 victory in six innings over Jesuit in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Wednesday. The top-seeded Black Tornado (26-2) racked up 14 hits — including three doubles, two triples and a home run — to earn a berth into the quarterfinals, where they will host Southern Oregon Hybrid rival Grants Pass on Friday. The Cavers beat Thurston, 6-0.
Three of the final eight teams in the bracket are from the SOH, with today's winner between South Medford and Roseburg also advancing.
"Our conference is the toughest conference, I think, in the state," Mayben said. "We're biased, but if you look at the pitching we've had in our conference, the depth is fantastic."
North's Alexis Barkwell went 3-for-3 with a solo homer, two RBIs and a run scored on Wednesday, finishing a triple short of the cycle.
Jovanovic was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs. She made it all the way home while plating another run with her triple to right field during North's four-run second inning. The throw to third was off, allowing her to score.
"I never really saw the ball," Jovanovic said. "(Head coach) Mike (Mayben) was just saying, 'Get up and go.' I was just listening to him and trusting that he had my back on that. ... It was pretty cool. I was just hoping to get up those 10 runs and end it pretty quick."
The two-time defending state champions showed off their offensive arsenal — and resilience — in the five-hit inning, with all their runs coming with two outs.
Joci Ellis got the ball rolling by angling a difficult triple right down the third-base line. Like a boxer throwing a left-right combination, Megan Cowden then belted a hard RBI single the opposite direction. Jovanovic executed her highlight hit before Barkwell and Keisha Williams added jabs of their own with singles.
"We spread the hits out," Mayben said. "We had a couple down the left-field line, a couple to left-center, a couple to right-center, a couple down the right-field line. We have had different things we've been working on the last three weeks and we really made an emphasis to work on our hitting after the Beaverton game, even though we only had one practice. The kids took it to heart and made big adjustments — not little adjustments, big adjustments."
Williams finished 2-for-2 with two runs and an RBI, Janelle Rodgers 2-for-2 with an RBI and run, Katie Ramsay 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Ellis 2-for-4 with a triple and run for North, which went ahead 3-0 in the first.
"It was huge just to get clutch hits and score early," Ramsay said.
Jovanovic scored the game-ending run on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth to enforce the 10-run mercy rule.
Barkwell improved to 23-2 after allowing five hits, one unearned run and a walk with five strikeouts in five innings. Sarah Thomas replaced her in the sixth.
Emily Allen was 2-for-3 with a run scored for the 17th-seeded Crusaders (15-14), which beat North, 9-0, the last time the two squads met in the postseason in 2007.
Jesuit loaded the bases twice in the fifth.
"We load the bases and give ourselves a chance," said Jesuit head coach Jim Speciale, who picked up his 300th career victory earlier this year. "We took way too many pitches today. We've got to get better with not taking as many pitches, but that will come. We are really young. We only had four seniors, so the future looks good for us."
Jesuit 000 010 — 1 7 2
North Medford 341 021 — 11 14 1
Hai. Malin and Preble; Barkwell, Thomas (6) and Ramsay. W — Barkwell (23-2). L — Hai. Malin. 2B — NM: Williams, Ramsay, Barkwell. 3B — NM: Ellis, Jovanovic. HR — NM: Barkwell.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 651-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt