North goes south in state start
The Black Tornado's youth rears its head in the team's worst showing of an otherwise fine year
The North Medford High baseball team picked an inopportune time to play its worst game of the season - in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs Monday.
On a cold, dreary and rainy day at Miles Field that befit North Medford's fate, the Black Tornado committed eight errors, left 14 runners on base and generally played anything like the No. 1-ranked team it was coming into the game.
Newberg took full advantage to the tune of a 10-7 victory.
"I think some of our youth showed today," said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe, whose starting lineup featured four sophomores and five juniors. "We just had a bad day."
North Medford finished its season with a 23-4 record, while Newberg improved to 18-8 and will play host to Reynolds in a second-round game on Wednesday.
The Tigers trailed 3-2 after two innings Monday but got a three-run triple from Jared Thomas during a four-run third inning to take the lead for good.
Newberg came into the game as the No. 4 representative from the Pac-9 Conference, but the Tigers are no strangers to success. They returned eight starters from last season's team that won a league championship and advanced to the state quarterfinals, and they started this season by winning eight of their first nine games - including a tournament in Las Vegas - that earned them the No. — state ranking.
But injuries to Thomas and shortstop/pitcher Alex Bailey left them vulnerable - they started league play 0-4 - and only recently have they shown their old spark.
"Our kids knew if they made it into the playoffs that they could do some damage," Newberg coach Scott Klug said. "We're a pretty good club when we're healthy."
Thomas, Newberg's cleanup hitter, finished the day with a pair of triples and four RBIs.
"Before we got off the bus, we had a little meeting and decided we didn't drive five hours to get beat," Thomas said. "We've got a lot of seniors and we know what it takes to win on the road."
Despite its foibles, North Medford had chances to win.
Trailing 7-3 after 31/2 innings, the Tornado scored once in the bottom of the fourth and had the bases loaded with one out and its No. — and No. 4 hitters - Evan McArthur and Dustin Butler - coming to the plate.
But Newberg pitcher Dallas Buck, a crafty right-hander, struck them both out on breaking pitches.
"I had to use breaking balls against them because I knew they were good hitters and would probably hammer my fastball," said Buck, who worked five-plus to get the win. "I got the first guy (McArthur) with a slider and the other guy (Butler) with a forkball.
"Sometimes those breaking balls in key situations can backfire if you throw them in the dirt or can't throw a strike. But they worked for me today."
The Tornado's other chance for a big inning came in the sixth. then, North Medford trailed 10-6, but Butler and Russ Vandell drew walks to start the inning, forcing a tiring Buck from the mound in favor of Bailey.
Brett Timmerman greeted Bailey with an RBI single, cutting Newberg's advantage to 10-7, and then Jim Ulrey got hit by a pitch. The Tigers still hadn't registered an out, but Bailey bore down to strike out Beau Hovland and J.C. Rowley and then got leadoff hitter Rob Folsom to fly out, ending the inning.
"That's definitely the best-hitting team we've seen," Buck said of the Black Tornado. "I thought I pitched pretty well and they still got a bunch of hits (eight) off me."
North Medford had one last chance in the seventh. Tyler Engle drew a walk to lead off the inning and Butler followed one out later with a double to center. But Bailey again came through in the clutch, striking out Vandell and getting Timmerman to fly out to center to end the game.
"We just couldn't get the key hit," said Butler, who went 3-for-4 and scored twice to lead the Tornado offense. "I think the wet conditions had something to do with all the errors we made, but it was the same for them as it was for us.
"It just wasn't our day, I guess."
Newberg....................................... 204 130 0 - 10 8 2North Medford.............................. 300 121 0 - 7 10 8
Buck, Bailey (6) and Burger; McArthur, Kircher (5) and Folsom. W - Buck (4-4). L - McArthur (9-2). 2B - NM: Vandell, Butler. 3B - New: K. Thomas 2.