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Maurer beats odds, suits up for Tornado in baseball

When Matt Maurer suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a football game last September, doctors and sports trainers told him it would be about nine months before he could return to the playing fields.

Speed up the rehabilitation process and you might be back in 71/2 or eight months, they added.

But Maurer, a North Medford High freshman, was determined to join the Black Tornado baseball team in March — barely five months after the debilitating injury.

Mission accomplished.

Maurer, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman with great potential, started the second game of a doubleheader against Mountain View last Saturday and pitched three innings. He hit the first batter he faced, but that runner was wiped out on a double play as Maurer retired the next eight batters, striking out four.

Maurer picked up the win in a 14-0 North Medford victory. The talent-rich Tornado romped to a 15-3 win in Game 1.

"When people said it couldn't be done in five months, it made me want to work that much harder," Maurer says. "In situations like that, I don't take no for an answer."

Maurer has been closely monitored by Ashland orthopedic surgeon Hal Townsend, who performed the surgery Oct. 6. Townsend is a sports fan as well as a doctor. He served as a team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers and Rams during the 1980s.

"He said from the beginning that the odds of me coming back this quickly were very small, but there was a possibility and he'd work with me," Maurer says. "He's been like a parent to my parents, advising them on what I should and shouldn't be doing."

Maurer has worked diligently with Medford personal trainer Charlie LePari and also has been lifting weights in an early-bird class with the North Medford football team. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound, three-sport standout is a quarterback in football and a guard in basketball.

"I've been doing a lot of work to build up my hamstrings, which protect the knees and especially the ACLs," Maurer says. "And just a lot of footwork stuff to improve my quickness."

Maurer was in the North Medford gym shortly after Christmas break, playing soft toss with head baseball coach Brett Wolfe.

"He showed me how I could throw without twisting my knee or putting pressure on it," Maurer says. "It was good to get out there early and get my arm moving."

Maurer admits he wanted to be part of a Black Tornado baseball team that could be among the best in the state. But more than that, the players are among his best friends.

"It's a heck of a baseball team and just a bunch of great guys," says Maurer, who carries straight A's in the classroom. "Everybody believes in me and was hoping I could make it back. I'm only a freshman, but the seniors have been incredibly supportive. That made me want to come back all the more."

Wolfe has told Maurer he likely won't swing a bat or play first base until late in the season — and maybe not until summer ball — because of the added strain on his knee.

But don't bet against someone who has already beaten the odds.

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SOUTH MEDFORD HIGH basketball coach Dennis Murphy has been named an assistant coach for the West team at the Jordan Classic all-star basketball game April 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Murphy's prize pupil — Duke-bound Kyle Singler — will suit up for the West squad.

In a related matter, Murphy said Monday that South Medford will return to the Les Schwab Invitational for a third straight year in December. The Panthers won't be invited back to the Pro Bass Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo., Murphy added, because that event showcases the very best high school players in the nation. In lieu of that tournament, South Medford will once again play in the Red Bluff (Calif.) Holiday Classic.

The only hole in South Medford's 2007-2008 schedule is an endowment game. Murphy is hoping to set up a home date with North Eugene, which won the Class 5A state title earlier this month and went unbeaten on the season. The Highlanders will return Brian Conklin, a 6-foot-9 center who is being recruited by a host of Division I colleges.

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TIM PFLUG IS LIVING is living proof that what goes around, comes around.

The former St. Mary's High head football coach became the Crusaders' grid mentor again last November. And now comes word that Pflug will resume duties as the school's head girls basketball coach. He simultaneously coached the boys and girls hoop teams from 1998-2001.

During Pflug's eight years as the boys coach, St. Mary's won three league titles and collected five trophies at the Class 2A state tournament. The Crusaders also twice advanced to the semifinals under his watch.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com