Tornado clinches share of SWC title
Needing a doubleheader sweep Saturday to secure a share of a third straight Southwest Conference championship, North Medford got a little help from all areas at home against South Eugene.
Matt Maurer and Brady Shipley were each effective on the mound and backed by some key defensive support, and the Black Tornado was opportunistic at the plate in scoring a pair of wins over the Axemen, 12-2 in five innings and 5-3.
With the sweep, North became only the second baseball program since 1991 to earn a third straight conference title at the top level here in the Rogue Valley. After winning the 2007 and '08 crowns outright, the Tornado shared this year's title with Roseburg after each posted 12-3 marks in league play.
By virtue of winning two of the three head-to-head matchups, the Indians will take the SWC's No. 1 seed into the Class 6A state playoffs and North Medford will be the No. 2 seed and open next Friday at home against the No. 4 seed from the Mt. Hood Conference.
Maurer was solid in improving his record to 7-1, striking out six with two walks and four hits allowed in the five-inning opener.
The junior left-hander found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning with no outs and walked one run in before another scored on an error. With North's lead trimmed to 5-2, South Eugene's Chris Becker hit a fly-ball out to right fielder Jordan Ellis, who then turned his attentions to home plate and threw out Trevor Wolf for an unconventional double play. Maurer finished the frame with a strikeout.
The top-ranked Black Tornado (23-4) tallied two runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth to end the game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule. Chris Bradshaw blasted a triple with the bases loaded and scored when the relay throw to third base got away. After Colin Sowers drew a walk, Brady Shipley followed with a game-ending RBI single.
Bradshaw finished 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs, while Cody James was 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs and Mark Cokenour 2-for-2 with one run scored.
Needing to win the second game to preserve its league standing, North scored all five of its runs in the second inning and held on from there. Shipley allowed five hits and struck out 10 to move to 8-2, and scored the first run in the surge on a bases-loaded wild pitch.
Ellis belted a two-run double and Hayden Wolfe followed with another two-run double to cap the scoring. Both senior outfielders finished with two hits.
Sowers picked off Becker at first base to halt a scoring threat in the second by the Axemen (9-16, 3-12 SWC) and, after Jake Neel's two-run homer in the sixth, Shipley retired the last six batters — the final three by strikeout.
Bradshaw also singled in the fifth inning of Game 2 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
South Eugene 000 20 — 2 4 2
North Medford 500 25 — 12 8 2
Chappell, Craig (5), Larson (5) and Wolf; Maurer and Sowers. W — Maurer (7-1). L — Chappell. 2B — SE: Becker; NM: James 2. 3B — NM: Bradshaw.
South Eugene 010 002 0 — 3 5 1
North Medford 050 000 x — 5 7 0
Ward, Hudson (6) and Larson; Shipley and Sowers. W — Shipley (8-2). L — Ward. 2B — NM: Wolfe, Ellis. HR — SE: Neel.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org