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Fourth-inning fireworks lift North

Mix tired pitching arms with hot-hitting bats and you've got a recipe for some baseball fireworks.

The North Medford Black Tornado, wielding some extra-warm aluminum bats, took another step toward a conference championship with a 14-4 victory over arm-weary Crater Tuesday at Miles Field.

The win was the eighth in a row for the streaking Black Tornado, which moved to 19-5 overall and 15-4 in the Southern Oregon Conference.

North Medford remains deadlocked with South Medford, a 6-0 winner over Grants Pass Tuesday, atop the SOC standings with two games left. The Tornado travels to Klamath Union for a 1:30 p.m. doubleheader Friday while South Medford hosts Crater (9-14, 8-11 SOC) in a noon twin bill Saturday at Miles Field.

Should the two teams tie for the SOC title, North Medford would receive the No. — state playoff berth by virtue of its 2-1 advantage over South Medford in head-to-head play.

— If momentum counts for anything, the Tornado deserves to be the league champion. It trailed Crater 4-1 after three and one-half innings Tuesday, then went on a hitting rampage that would have made Ted Williams proud.

North Medford lambasted Crater starting pitcher Kurtis Knutson and his replacement, Evan Seegmiller, for 12 hits and 12 runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 13-4 lead.

Sophomore Abe Eubank kick-started the onslaught by blasting a two-run homer over the left-field fence.

I struck out three times Saturday and in my first at-bat today, and so that one really felt good, Eubank said. He (Knutson) gave me a fastball on the first pitch and I drilled it. I knew it was gone.

Kyle Williamson and Josh Suarez pounded two-run doubles, Charlie Behnke added a two-run single and winning pitcher Beau Hovland and Russ Vandell had two hits each in an inning that took nearly 30 minutes to complete.

Seegmiller, who relieved Knutson after Williamson's two-run double made it 7-4, yielded seven hits and one walk and never recorded an out. Jeff Weiss came in for Seegmiller to get the third out of the inning.

The game ended by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth when Behnke scored on a wild pitch.

Both of those kids (Knutson and Seegmiller) pitched Saturday, and we were trying to get a half-game out of each of them today, said Crater coach Jim Powell, whose team desperately needed a win to remain in the state-playoff hunt. They gave what they could, but they didn't have the velocity on their fastball that they normally have.

And North Medford has some good hitters. They made us pay for every bad pitch we threw.

Vandell, who finished the day 2-for-2 with a walk, now has 12 hits in his last 16 at-bats.

I've made a couple of small adjustments to my stance, but mostly it's confidence, Vandell said. I go up there with the mind-set that I'm going to hit the ball.

Hovland, meanwhile, had a shaky fourth inning when he gave up a suicide squeeze bunt to Jesse Bailey and back-to-back doubles to Adam Reed and Dan Whitehead that brought in three more runs.

But the senior right-hander held the Comets scoreless in the other four innings to improve his record to 9-2.

Our kids are peaking at the right time, North Medford coach Brett Wolf said. They're on a hot streak and they want to make a run in the playoffs.

Crater............................................000 40 ' 4 6 0

North Medford.....................100 (12)1 ' 14 15 1

Knutson, Seegmiller (4), Weiss (4) and Reina; Hovland and Folsom. W ' Hovland (9-2). L ' Knutson (4-6). 2B ' C: Reed, Whitehead; NM: Behnke, Hovland, Williamson, Suarez. HR ' NM: Eubank (3).

North Medford's Beau Hovland, left, and catcher Rob Folsom are unable to get the tag on Crater's AJ Herbold at home on a suicide squeeze in the fourth inning Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli