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North intent on ensuring that misery doesn't repeat itself

North Medford's been in this situation before, and the Black Tornado didn't like the end result.

A No. — ranking in Class 4A baseball.

A Southern Oregon Conference championship under its belt.

High hopes of a state title as the No. 4 seed from the Pac-9 Conference came to town for a first-round state playoff affair.

— All that came crumbling down last year as Newberg took advantage of North's worst game of the season for a 10-7 upset. The Black Tornado committed a season-high eight errors, left 14 runners on base and played nothing like a championship-caliber team against the Tigers, who went on to finish runner-up to Southridge in the state final.

But that was last year.

I think we're over that and we're hungry to win this year, says North senior Brett Timmerman, one of nine returners eager to erase the memory of 2002. We're not looking at last year; we're ready to win this year.

The difference between the teams?

This year's team hasn't really cared about everything else going on around us and the publicity, he adds. We've just cared about winning.

And win the Tornado has, to the tune of a 23-3 overall record heading into today's first-round state-playoff game against Tualatin, the No. 4 seed from the Pac-9.

The Timberwolves beat Westview, 9-1, on Friday to earn the right to face North at — p.m. at Miles Field. Senior left-hander Dan Wentzell struck out nine in seven innings and drove in two runs to help Tualatin avenge an early-season, 11-2 loss to Westview.

Wentzell went 3-for-4 with a homer on Friday, while senior teammate Christian Peters added three hits and Tualatin received two hits from seniors Jason Cahoon, Pat Drysdale and Kevin Mignano.

North Medford coach Brett Wolfe says the Tornado know little else about the Timberwolves, opting instead to concentrate on playing its own game.

We're going to go out and play our game and let them worry about us, says the ninth-year coach. Last year we weren't too sure about getting that No. — ranking, but this year we believe it. We've had it for a while and are used to playing with the No. — tag.

Southridge, the defending 4A champs, managed the top ranking in the state's preseason poll, but North moved up to that spot after the first week of action and hasn't budged in a record-breaking season.

The Tornado enters today's game needing one victory to establish a new single-season school record. North already has established school records in team home runs for a season (26), individual homers for a season (Rob Folsom, eight), and stands second in school history for fielding percentage (.950).

Folsom's .530 batting average this season is also the best in North Medford history, and the Tornado's team average of .394 ranks No. — as well.

Folsom enters today with a 36-game hitting streak dating back 10 games into last season. The junior catcher has 46 hits in 26 games this season with a team-high 32 RBIs.

North, however, is far from a one-man show.

Center fielder Reese Lamson boasts a .395 average and 30 RBIs, with right fielder Jimmy Ulrey (.385, 29 RBIs) and first baseman/pitcher Dustin Butler (.342, 29) adding punch as seniors.

Timmerman has driven in 24 runs with a .366 average, while senior outfielder J.C. Rowley is hitting .419, senior third basemen Charlie Behnke and Russ Vandell are at .417 and .393, respectively, and junior shortstop Beau Hovland is hitting .371.

And when you're tired of hearing about offense, North offers up more impressive numbers on the mound among left-handers Timmerman and Butler and right-hander Travis Glass.

The Tornado enters today with a team ERA of 1.81, with Butler sporting a 9-0 record and 1.10 ERA. Timmerman is 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA, and Glass is at 4-2 with a 1.83 ERA.

ASHLAND AT NORTH EUGENE ' As the SOC's No. — seed, Ashland will have its hands full at 4:30 p.m. today at sixth-ranked North Eugene.

The Highlanders (21-5) enter the state playoffs as the No. 2 seed from the Midwestern League despite tying Sheldon for the league title with 14-2 records. The Irish earned the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of the Highlanders, 6-4 and 6-5.

Seniors Cody Newell and Zach Bird head a talented North Eugene lineup, with the left-handed Newell tossing six shutouts in league play and surpassing the 130-strikeout mark for the season.

Bird led the MWL with 24 RBIs in 16 games, tying senior James Mannion for team-high honors in league play with two homers apiece.

Bird, a right-hander, also joins Newell as one of North Eugene's top pitchers. Senior righty Andrew Sakshaug and junior righty Chris Vann help fill out the Highlander staff.

Mannion drove in 15 runs in 16 league games, with senior first baseman Neal Crum notching 14 RBIs.

North Eugene and Ashland are the only teams to have beaten North Medford, with the Highlanders twice topping the Black Tornado, 4-3 and 5-2.

KLAMATH UNION AT CRESCENT VALLEY ' As one of the bigger surprises in the SOC this season, Klamath Union has shown tremendous focus in becoming the conference's No. 2 seed.

Leading the charge all season have been seniors Jon James and Aaron Croxford, juniors Sean Anderson, Cory Spires, Jeff Tidwell and Bryan Rogers and sophomore Daniel Bennett.

James is the Pelicans' ace on the mound and top offensive threat, posting a 6-2 record and .400 batting average. He'll be asked to provide a settling influence as the Pelicans make their first appearance in the state playoffs since 1992.

Anderson is hitting .379 and Spires leads the team with 23 RBIs.

Crescent Valley (15-11) sported a 12-6 record in gaining the No. 2 seed out of the Valley League.

The Raiders also have a touch of SOC experience heading into today's 3:30 tilt in Corvallis. In an early-season swing, Crescent Valley beat South Medford, 6-5, and Ashland, 8-3, before dropping a 12-5 game at Roseburg in the Raiders' third game in three days.

Seniors Spencer Adkins, Alex DeAngelis and Ian Frost have been CV's offensive catalysts, along with sophomore Joey Lakowske. Frost, a left-handed pitcher, heads up the Raiders' rotation along with senior right-hander Saul Kaye.

CRATER AT McMINNVILLE

' McMinnville, Pac-9 Conference champions for the first time since 1985, enters the state playoffs as one of the hottest teams in Oregon.

The Grizzlies (18-5) won 11 of their last 12 conference games to earn their first trip to the playoffs since 1996.

McMinnville did drop a 2-0 game to Class 3A La Salle last week in a tune-up for the state playoffs, but that should only serve as motivation heading into today's — p.m. home game against Crater.

The Grizzlies boast a steady 1-2 pitching combination in Daniel Turpen, who struck out 12 two weeks ago against Tualatin, and left-hander Joe Paterson, who had 11 strikeouts in a title-clinching win over fourth-ranked Newberg.

Turpen, the Pac-9's co-player of the year, is expected to start today against Crater. The right-hander walked only 16 and struck out 64 in 551/3 innings.

Turpen also leads the offensive attack with a .468 average, but he gets plenty of help from junior catcher Travis Carver, senior third baseman Sean Cahill and outfielders Scott Peterson and Ryan Fricke.

Carver batted .448 with 15 RBIs, while Cahill hit .442 and scored a team-high 26 runs. Peterson and Fricke both hit .401 with four homers, with Fricke notching a team-high 22 RBIs.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail