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North leaps back into SOC title race

Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman

The Black Tornado atones for last weekend's losses at Roseburg with a sweep of Klamath Union

Timing is everything in baseball, and Klamath Union's couldn't have been worse Saturday afternoon at Miles Field.

Looking to steal a game or two from eighth-ranked North Medford, the Pelicans instead were swept away by a feisty Black Tornado squad eager to atone for last weekend's twin bill loss at Roseburg.

Brent Kircher allowed five hits with six strikeouts and Brett Timmerman went 3-for-3 as North won Saturday's opener, 8-2. Evan McArthur nailed down the sweep with 10 strikeouts and an RBI double for a 2-0 win in Game 2.

"We were disappointed in Roseburg because we thought we could play with those guys," said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe. "Our kids are competitors and we had a good week of practice and they came out ready to go today."

That improved focus helped the Tornado (17-3 overall, 7-3 SOC) pull into a tie for first in the Southern Oregon Conference with top-ranked Crater, sixth-ranked Ashland and Roseburg.

The SOC championship now boils down to which team can step up with two doubleheaders remaining.

"I like competition," Wolfe said of the tight race. "Every team in the SOC is going to give you a competitive game, and that just helps prepare you to compete in the playoffs."

On the flip side, the Pelicans dropped to 11-8 overall and 5-5 in SOC play.

"We were right in the thick of it with Roseburg and North heading into today," said KU coach Tim Simmers, "and now we're going one direction and they're going the other."

Two first-inning errors set the tone for the Pelicans in Game 1, with KU committing five for the game and North taking full advantage in one of its better hitting displays in recent weeks.

"Against South (Medford) and Roseburg it seemed like we weren't swinging the bats at all," said North sophomore catcher Rob Folsom, "but this game we had some hard hits and things started falling for us."

Timmerman sparked the Tornado in the opener with a leadoff single in the second. The bases were eventually loaded for Folsom following a walk to Jimmy Ulrey, a fielder's choice by Beau Hovland and a single by J.C. Rowley. Folsom's liner to KU shortstop Mike Mitchell was bobbled, allowing Ulrey to score, and then Tyler Engle followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.

The Tornado quickly got back on stride in the third, scoring three runs on three hits and an error to give Kircher more than enough of a cushion. Hovland and Folsom each picked up RBIs, with Ulrey responsible for the other run when his fly ball to center field was misplayed by Jeff Mortenson.

Russ Vandell drove home McArthur on a fielder's choice in the fourth and Folsom and McArthur each added RBIs in the fifth for an 8-1 lead.

The only damage against Kircher came on an RBI double by Mortenson in the fifth and an RBI single by Aaron Croxford in the sixth.

McArthur set the tone in Game 2 by striking out five of the first eight batters faced. His only real test came after giving up a single to Mitchell and double to Mortenson to lead off the fourth. Undaunted, the senior right-hander reared back and struck out two of the next three batters - the last punctuated by a fist-pump from Wolfe.

"Evan always gives us a chance," said Wolfe. "He was really able to let it go and hit his spots today."

McArthur got all the runs he would need an inning prior, doubling home Folsom after Rowley scored on a fielder's choice by Engle against KU starter Jon James.

KU only managed four hits against McArthur and nine for the day - compared to 17 hits by North - leaving Simmers to merely shake his head in summarizing the Pels' day in Medford.

"When we had opportunities to get some guys on and get something going we didn't get it done and they did," said the first-year coach. "We just didn't get the production we were hoping for.

"I thought Jon James threw a heckuva ballgame in that second one, but it's tough to win when you get shut out."

Hitless in the opener despite several quality at-bats, Dustin Butler went 2-for-3 in the nightcap with a double.

Mortenson went 4-for-4 overall for KU as the Pelicans unfortunately proved to be the perfect tonic for North's ailments.

"I think we got our confidence back and I think we can go back to being the team to beat (in the SOC)," warned McArthur.


Klamath Union.................................000 011 0 - 2 5 5North Medford.................................023 120 x - 8 9 1

Caleb and Anderson; Kircher and Folsom. W - Kircher (6-3). L - Caleb (4-5). 2B - KU: Mortenson; NM: Timmerman, Folsom.


Klamath Union..................................000 000 0 - 0 4 1North Medford..................................002 000 x - 2 8 0

James and Anderson; McArthur and Folsom. W - McArthur (6-1). L - James (3-1). 2B - KU: Mortenson; NM: Butler, McArthur.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

North Medford's Tyler Engle, front, slaps the tag on Klamath Union's Jared Leeper after Leeper was caught in a third-inning rundown in the second game of Saturday's SOC doubleheader. Engle later drove in one of North's two runs in the bottom of the third.