For a fourth-year starting senior like South Medford pitcher Pat Moore, there was no doubt she understood the history of the crosstown rivalry with North Medford heading into Saturday’s key Southwest Conference doubleheader.
For most of the young Panthers, however, Saturday was merely a day for two softball games at North Medford High.
Whatever the concentration, it all seemed to work out fine for South Medford in Game 1 of the doubleheader as an early lead built confidence and the Panthers carried that through to the end of a 6-3 victory to snap a 28-game losing streak to the Black Tornado.
South’s last win over North was nine years prior to the exact day, 4-3 in eight innings on April 15, 2008 at Fagone Field.
“Honestly, I think it was just all about our mentality,” Moore said of ending the drought against the Tornado. “We weren’t worried about winning or beating North and the whole name thing, we just said this is a conference game and we want to start the doubleheader 1-0. We stayed focused and we didn’t really make it a big deal or think ahead, and it was awesome to finally get the win.”
While South Medford’s breakthrough win was impressive, North Medford handled the adversity with equal aplomb.
Despite falling behind 1-0 in the second inning, the Black Tornado (13-1, 6-1 SWC) remained focused on the task at hand and ultimately was rewarded with an 8-1 triumph in Game 2 to salvage a split between the SWC leaders.
“We didn’t have as much confidence going in the first game,” said North Medford junior pitcher Rylan Austin, “but in the second game we had a lot of confidence. They beat us all around — pitching, hitting and fielding — in that first game but we did a really good job of turning it around in the second game. I was really proud of our team for that.”
In the opener, sophomore Jaden Alexander’s two-run double in the first inning helped set a positive tone for South Medford that, even after North tied it at 2-all in the third inning, carried over throughout the game.
The Panthers (8-4, 5-2) were up 4-3 in the seventh when Moore led off the inning with a double, Alexander walked and senior Bailee Tatum singled to load the bases. Freshman Lanie Rodriguez then drew a walk to bring home a run and sophomore Kara Jacobson drove home another run on an ensuing grounder for the final margin.
In Game 1, Moore finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and one RBI while also striking out 14 with four walks and four hits allowed for the Panthers, who also saw Alexander go 2-for-2 with one run and three RBIs.
“The biggest thing for us was to jump out and get those first two runs in the first inning and try to carry that momentum over from there,” said South Medford head coach Miranda Gillaspie. “If you go with those guys 0-0 through four or five innings, like in Game 2 we were 1-0 through four, it’s just not enough. They’re competitors over there (at North), you always know they’re going to be. You can’t give them an inch because they’ll take a mile, and they did that on us in Game 2.”
Tatum’s leadoff double off the base of the fence in left field sparked South to a second-inning lead in the nightcap, with Rodriguez adding a hit before freshman Rikiya Bratcher sent an 0-2 pitch into center field for an RBI single.
The game finally turned for North Medford in the fourth inning after senior Jordan Neathamer cranked a one-out double off the right-center fence. Junior Mahal Miles immediately tied the game at 1-all with a single to center field. Courtesy runner Kylie Baker then moved to second on a passed ball and, after senior Courtney Williams walked, both runners advanced on a flyout by senior Danyelle Milam.
A little chaos followed soon after when freshman Lauren Barry legged out an infield single on a close play at first base with two outs to plate Baker. As the Panthers processed coming a split-second from an inning-ender, Barry ran toward second base to induce a throw and then North senior Ashley Ripplinger (who replaced Williams on the basepaths) alertly broke from third and barrelled home to beat a throw to Tatum on a collision at the plate for a 3-1 advantage.
After gaining its first lead in the doubleheader, North Medford took off from there and Austin didn’t allow a single baserunner over the final four innings of play.
“Once we got that lead we were not going to give it up, we had it from there,” said Austin, who struck out four and allowed five hits overall in Game 2. “That’s what went wrong in the first game, we didn’t ever get ahead and we were just even with them and didn’t have that chance to close them out.”
Austin’s one-out double set the stage for a four-run fifth inning, with junior Alex Barry smacking an RBI single on the next pitch and Milam later adding a two-run single when the bases were loaded. A run was also scored after a wild pitch by Moore, who struck out eight, walked four and allowed eight hits in Game 2.
In the sixth, North senior Taelor Mayben singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored the final run on a groundout by Austin.
“In this game it’s a matter of getting the timely hits,” said Black Tornado head coach Mike Mayben. “Sometimes you can get 10 hits and have only one run to show for it. Early in the second game we had runners on third and we didn’t get those timely hits but as the game progressed we started getting those hits and building a little confidence. We did a good job of just putting the ball in play to give us an opportunity to score runs.”
Moore and Tatum; Austin and Salvador. W — Moore (8-3). L — Austin (9-1). 2B — SM: Alexander, Rodriguez, Moore 2.
Moore and Tatum; Austin and Milam. W — Austin (10-1). L — Moore (8-4). 2B — SM: Tatum; NM: Neathamer, Austin.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry