South sweeps North
If there's one thing that can be said about South Medford's Mark Austad, it's that he simply doesn't know when to give up.
From stretched out tendons in his shoulder to a previously broken wrist and a strained hamstring, the senior left fielder isn't the picture of health to begin with this season.
But, as has been the case at South all season, Austad wasn't about to give up until he got his way Monday afternoon against rival North Medford at Harry and David Field.
In spite of three straight flyouts to center field in Game 2, Austad was the picture of confidence when he stepped into the batter's box with a runner on first and two outs in the sixth inning.
And, as was the case in his prior at-bats, Austad got a pitch to drive on a 3-1 count against North starter Andrew Jones. Only this time, the result was much better for the Panthers after center fielder Tony Salamone inexplicably took a few steps in on the ball and couldn't recover in time as it sailed over his head for a tiebreaking double.
— I guess to center field the fourth time's the charm, said Austad, who had been stymied by starting center fielder A.J. Nichols until a defensive switch in the sixth.
It was a hit-and-run call and the pitch was right there and I just turned on it, he added. It was nice to finally see it keep going. I was real glad that I saw that puppy go over him.
As were the Panthers, who broke the game open when Jared Adamson blooped an RBI double to right field and Ben Koziol later followed with a two-run single off relief pitcher Trevor McCleery.
The scoring surge allowed South to complete a sweep of North with an 8-5 victory in the nightcap. Panther senior Ryan Odell tossed a two-hitter in the opener to lead South to a 4-1 triumph.
It's hugely important, South coach Steve Antich said of the sweep. It's a boost for us and our confidence. North is always a big hurdle, but we've got a lot of baseball to play. You can't beat (North) and turn around and not play well tomorrow.
South Medford, which plays at Klamath Union at 2 p.m. today, improved to 12-2 overall and 7-2 in Southern Oregon Conference play with the sweep. North Medford (6-7, 5-4 SOC) plays host to Eagle Point at 4:30 p.m. today.
South's a good team, said North coach Brett Wolfe. We've had our turn but we'll be back. We get to play them again, and we're going to be right in this thing until the end.
The Black Tornado was in the opener until the very end, loading the bases with only one out in the seventh before Odell got North's Darren Bruhns to swing at the first pitch and roll into an easy double play.
And even though a three-run double by Zach Wilson put the momentum firmly on South's side in the fifth inning of Game 2, North somehow found a way to scratch back with two runs for a 4-4 tie.
But all the maneuvers used to pull off the rally ended up hampering the Tornado in the end as Wolfe pinch-hit for Nichols a second time, making him ineligible to return. Pinch-hitter Aaron Marlia was hit by a pitch by reliever Josh Camp to plate the first run of the rally with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately, starting third baseman Dustin Shipley hyper-extended his knee racing to second to keep the inning alive on an Odell error at third. It wasn't determined until after Marlia was hit that Shipley could not continue, forcing his exit and leaving Wolfe to move left fielder Salamone over to center instead of putting Shipley in that spot and Marlia at third.
The slight adjustment didn't appear like it was going to matter with Jones getting two quick outs, but a fastball that got away from him plunked Odell to keep the inning alive, and then Austad and crew took care of the rest.
I've got to get runs before I can play defense, Wolfe said of his late-game maneuvers. It was an easy change for me. I was trying to get the game tied or maybe jump ahead and then worry about defense.
He just broke in on the ball and didn't get a good jump on it and it went over his head, the coach added of the momentum-changing miscue. Those things happen sometimes.
As have similar rallies for the Panthers, who apparently have no problem hanging their hats on their late-game heroics.
Our guys never stop fighting, said Austad, who picked up his first hit of the season during Game 1. We might go pretty quiet for a few innings but we don't stop swinging, that's for sure.
Adamson led the hit parade for the Panthers, going 4-for-7 with four runs and two RBIs in the twin bill, while Wilson was 3-for-4 in the nightcap and had four RBIs overall. Odell was 3-for-7 with four runs scored, with Taylor Comford going 3-for-7 with one RBI and Rick Imhausen scoring three runs in Game 2.
Zack James provided the main punch for a listless Tornado attack, going 4-for-6 with two runs and a stolen base. James might have had a fifth hit, but South pitcher Zach Robinson somehow recovered from a line drive off his chest to throw the North senior out at first in Game 2.
Abe Eubank added a solo home run in the seventh inning of Game 2 and scored three of North's six runs in the doubleheader, while Tyler Lake joined James as the only Tornado players to get a hit in each game.
Our pitch selection in either game was not the best, said Wolfe. We chased a lot of balls out of the zone. You have to do a better job at the plate in hitter's counts, and we were out there fishing today.
North Medford.........................000 100 0 ' — 2 0
South Medford.........................201 010 x ' 4 8 2
Bedortha and Bruhns; Odell and Koziol. W ' Odell (5-1). L ' Bedortha (2-2). 2B ' NM: James, Lake; SM: Adamson, Comford, Imhausen.
North Medford.........................020 002 — ' 5 7 2
South Medford.......................010 034 x ' 8 10 2
Jones, McCleery (6) and Bruhns; Robinson, Camp (6) and Koziol. W ' Camp (3-0). L ' Jones (0-2). 2B ' NM: Odom, Shipley; SM: Adamson 2, Wilson, Austad. HR ' NM: Eubank (2).
South sweeps North"email@example.com.