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It ain't over 'til it's over

A game North Medford seemed to have put to bed will still be going when the Mavericks' players wake up this morning.

The host team in the American Legion A State Tournament at North Medford High, the Mavericks built an 18-3 lead through 31/2 innings against the Salem Senators in their opening game Friday.

But before North Medford could reach the 10-run mercy rule that goes into effect after five innings, Salem rallied.

The length of the game, coupled with long earlier contests, forced it to be suspended after five innings because of darkness.

North Medford leads 18-12 when the teams reconvene this morning at 8 to resume play in the sixth inning. The Mavericks are the visitors and will bat in the top of the frame.

"These kids have to learn how to play with adversity," said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe. "I look at this as an opportunity and a challenge. That's how you have to look at it. It's a chance to compete."

North Medford had a similar schedule in the Best in the West Tournament, playing a full game at 7 a.m., then coming back for a 2 p.m. contest. It lost the opener but won the second game.

"I told the kids we've already done this this year," said Wolfe.

Right-hander Shaun Whitehead will likely take the mound this morning, said Wolfe.

In earlier games, Ashland went four extra innings before edging Sheldon, 10-9 in 11. Then Roseburg and Klamath Falls scored a bunch of runs before the former posted a 19-7 triumph. La Grande downed North Eugene, 6-4, but by then the Mavericks game was destined to begin a half-hour later than the scheduled 6 p.m. start time.

North Medford is in the tournament because it's the host. It has a 26-10 overall record and tied for third place in Area 4.

Salem is 25-9 and won the Zone 2/3 title. Seven of its losses came against American Legion AAA teams.

The Senators looked like they were about to suffer another setback at their own level, but six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off Mavericks starter Will Allbright made it 18-9 and averted the mercy rule.

After North Medford went quietly in the fifth, Salem scored thrice more before the game was stopped.

"For us, we've never stopped fighting," said Salem coach Aaron Cummins. "We always have to have that spark, and we got that spark today because of some of the guys on our bench."

The Mavericks were not without their own fireworks.

If there was any question about whether they belonged, it was quickly answered with four-run first and second innings and an eight spot in the third that made it 16-3.

"If people want to overlook us because we're the host team, that's fine with us," said Wolfe. "We've played well all summer."

In the first inning, the Mavericks got a two-run single from Chris Anderson and RBI singles from Jessie Hornbrook and Cory Haggans.

An inning later, Haggans ripped a bases-loaded triple, and Hornbrook had another run-scoring single.

The eight runs in the third came on seven hits and four walks against Salem starter Chad Cox and reliever Kyle Crossley.

Haggans is 3-for-3 with five RBIs and three runs.

"I've been in a slump lately," said the senior-to-be at North Medford. "I hadn't been hitting as well, then I took a little break for a football camp, and I'm doing better."

The triple was a shot over center fielder Jamie Hoffman's head. It came on a 2-0 count.

"I was looking for a fastball," said Haggans. "That's my pitch I can drive, and he threw it up. I just took a hack at it."

He also made an acrobatic stop of a one-hopper in center field after his feet slipped out from under him. He snared the ball from the seat of his pants as it threatened to bounce over him for a potential inside-the-park home run.

The Mavericks' Anderson is 2-for-3 with a double and five RBIs, and Hornbrook is 3-for-4 with four runs and two RBIs.

Hayden Evans is 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs, and Michael Paxton is 2-for-4 with three runs.

Susp. due to darkness, resumes today

North Medford 448 20 — 18 16 1

Salem 030 63 — 12 14 2

Allbright and Pine; Cox, Crossley (3) and Marlatt. 2B — NM: Evans, Anderson; S: Marlatt, Hamilton, Black. 3B — NM: Haggans; S: Cox.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

North Medford's Michael Paxton slides in safely to third base during Friday's game against Salem at the American Legion A state tournament. - Denise Baratta