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South snaps North's playoff streak

A sun-baked Fagone Field and the equally hot South Medford bats put North Medford's lengthy state-playoff run on thin ice Tuesday in a Southern Oregon Conference softball playoff game.

In a win-or-go-home scenario, the Panthers poured in six runs over the first three innings and added three more over the fourth and fifth frames to clinch the SOC's fourth and final Class 4A state-playoff berth and put an end to the Black Tornado's own 11-year playoff streak.

South Medford (13-9) moves on to face Canby, the Pac 9 Conference's No. 4 team, in a subtournament game on Friday.

North Medford ends the season 12-12.

Both teams, along with Grants Pass and Crater, finished the regular season tied for second in the SOC, necessitating Tuesday's four-team playoff.

— Earlier Tuesday, the Panthers lost to Grants Pass 3-2 in eight innings, then Crater defeated North, 7-5, to set up the fourth-place game.

Grants Pass beat the Comets 4-3 to clinch second. Crater enters its 11th straight state campaign as the SOC's No. — seed.

Since the split of Medford High in 1986, North Medford has missed the state playoffs just three times heading into Tuesday's contest. While consistently making an appearance in the league playoffs, the Tornado came up short of state in 1987, 1993 and '94.

This year's Tornado crew, while talented, was young in some key positions, and ended the season losing six of its last seven conference games, including the playoff tilts.

Overall, the past couple weeks we lost momentum, said senior North pitcher Erica Sanders. We've had a lot of sickness and injuries.

South Medford, meanwhile, will make its fourth straight trip to the state playoffs after dispatching its rival.

I was a little worried because of that Black Tornado mystique, said Panther coach Dan Marshall. That's the last team I wanted to play in a loser-out situation. With the tradition and history, and they're just a good ballclub.

We feel very fortunate to get a win and we're very excited to get in.

South Medford provided plenty of offense in the early innings in support of starter Jill Jeter.

We wanted to do it for Jill, said senior first baseman Marissa Towry. She comes out and pitches so hard and we wanted to get her some runs.

Plus, as seniors, we knew this was our last chance.

North Medford, which was hit with a flu bug that spread through the team, couldn't recover from South's early hit barrage.

South came out hitting, said first-year Tornado coach Mike Mayben. They took care of business.

I think all four of these teams deserve to be in the playoffs. We're just the team that can't go this year.

Already holding a 3-0 lead after two innings, the Panthers loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Freshman designated player Nikki Stevens then stepped in and ripped a three-run triple to push the advantage to 6-0.

We were relentless and we hit the ball hard, said Marshall. Especially against Sanders, who was so good against us during the year.

She's tough, but I think playing back-to-back on a very hot day kind of wore (North) down.

The Black Tornado rallied for three runs in the third to cut its deficit in half but South responded with two in the fourth inning to put the game away.

(South) took advantage of everything we gave them, said Mayben. Our girls worked hard all year for it. We just came up one game short.

We'll work harder and come back strong next year.

Junior Amanda Volgarino went 4-for-6 over both games to lead North. Katie Gould and Alana Coronado each had two hits against South.

For the Panthers, Simone Hubbard provided a big stick with three hits in four at-bats and was 4-for-6 on the day. Teammates Alyssa Dixon and Colleen Morgan added two hits apiece against North.

South Medford.......................213 210 0 ' 9 10 3

North Medford.........................003 000 0 ' — 7 4

Jeter and Hubbard; Sanders, Schmidt (5) and Sevano. W ' Jeter (11-6). L ' Sanders (7-7). 3B ' SM: Jeter, Stevens, Hubbard.

South snaps North's playoff streak"kgoff@mailtribune.com.

North Medford third baseman Amanda Volgarino guns down a South Medford baserunner during Tuesday?s fourth-place final. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli