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Tornado trickle opens up floodgates

ROSEBURG ' The tiniest of base hits could, in the long run, have a monstrous impact on the Southern Oregon Conference baseball race.

It was no more than a trickle, this drag bunt off the bat of North Medford's Rob Folsom, but it started a flood.

In a conference-opening doubleheader Tuesday between the two teams predicted in a coaches' poll to finish one-two, favorite North Medford rolled over Roseburg, 13-2 in five innings and 12-4.

For four innings of the first game, the matchup lived up to expectations, the Indians holding a 2-0 lead.

— Then Folsom laid down his seemingly harmless roller to start the fifth inning, and before the Indians knew what hit them, North Medford had batted around and scored nine runs ' before the first out.

When the Black Tornado, the state's top-ranked squad, was finally retired, it had scored all 13 of its runs on 10 hits and two Roseburg errors.

The North Medford players did not experience drought again, tallying runs in five of the seven innings of the nightcap.

Had the two teams split, one could envision a season-long tussle at the top.

But a sweep means the Black Tornado, from Day 1, is playing a game of catch-us-if-you-can.

Coach (Brett Wolfe) was getting us up for these games all week, said senior second baseman Tyler Engle, who was a combined 5-for-7, including a mammoth home run in Game 2. We knew it might be for the league championship. We came out fired up.

A year ago, North Medford traveled here as the No. — Class 4A team and was itself swept. A week later, Crater had that ranking, came here and lost twice.

Wolfe allowed that, This is a tough place to play, and that, They thumped us up here last year, so that was a little incentive.

But he wasn't willing to accept the conference crown on the basis of two games.

Noting that good pitching generally beats good hitting and that there are some good pitchers out there, he said, There's nobody in the SOC that I overlook.

Roseburg (2-2 overall) has a couple of strong pitchers in Nick Waechter and Kerry Hall, but rainouts had prevented them from getting much game experience prior to facing the potent lineup of the Black Tornado (7-1).

Indians coach Troy Thompson balked at using that as an excuse, choosing instead to praise North Medford after it turned 25 hits into 25 runs on the day.

North Medford is very legitimate, he said. They hit the ball today; they put it in play hard. They do things offensively that put a lot of pressure on the defense.

Sometimes, they hit it easy.

Folsom had ripped a double and a single in his first two at-bats against Waechter in the opener.

Now came the fifth, and time was getting short.

I knew it was a close ballgame at the time, said the junior catcher. And at the end of the inning, we had talked about getting something started. (A drag bunt is) a pretty high percentage way of getting on base.

Noticing third baseman Hall even with the bag, Folsom wasted no time in deftly laying down the bunt while starting toward first and narrowly beating the throw.

Even Folsom didn't expect what happened next. Six of the next seven Black Tornado players got hits, the exception being a walk.

Among them, Dustin Butler clubbed a two-run single and Brett Timmerman a towering, two-run triple to deep right field.

Before the inning was over, Engle added a two-run double.

We have good hitters on our team, said Folsom. Any time I'm on base, I don't want to say I expect to be driven in, but there's a good chance.

Folsom, Engle and Russ Vandell each had three hits.

Timmerman went the distance, giving up seven hits, fanning four and not walking any.

Three of the hits and both runs came in the first inning.

It's 2-0 in the fifth, said Wolfe. If he doesn't give us a chance, they could have crept away from us.

Timmerman and Game 2 pitcher Butler, who went all the away, persevered even though they weren't on top of their games.

That shows what kind of pitchers they are if they can win when they don't have their best stuff, said Wolfe.

Butler allowed nine hits, struck out three and walked three.

Roseburg again scored twice in the first for a 2-1 lead, but North Medford got RBI doubles from Reese Lamson and Jimmy Ulrey in a four-run third to take command.

The game's highlights came an inning later, when Folsom smashed an offering from reliever Blake Keitzman over the wall just left of the 385-foot center-field marker.

Then the next batter, Engle, deposited a blast over the fence to the right of the marker.

An inning later, Ulrey led off with a homer that banged into the scoreboard.

It was the fourth round-tripper of the season for Folsom, who admits to being stronger this year and benefiting from a batting cage at home. Engle and Ulrey hit their first homers.

Folsom, Lamson and Ulrey each had two hits in the second game.

FIRST GAME

North Medford ................... 000 0(13) ' 13 15 0

Roseburg ..................................... 200 00 ' 2 7 3

Timmerman and Folsom; Waechter, Guyett (5), Dantibo (5) and Mitchell. W ' Timmerman (2-0). L ' Waechter. 2B ' NM: Folsom, Engle; R: Buxton, Simone. 3B ' NM: Timmerman.

SECOND GAME

North Medford ................... 104 214 0 ' 12 10 0

Roseburg ................................ 200 010 — ' 4 9 2

Butler and Folsom; Hall, Keitzman (3), Dantibo (6) and Mitchell. W ' Butler (3-0). L ' Hall. 2B ' NM: Lamson, Ulrey, Timmerman; R: Simone, Hall, Clagett. 3B ' R: Simone. HR ' NM: Folsom (4), Engle (1), Ulrey (1).

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail