North wraps up Reynolds
North Medford was a little off its game Friday, but the third-ranked Black Tornado baseball team still managed to make big plays when it mattered most in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Chris Bradshaw plated a pair of runs, Cory Haggans scored twice and Bradey Shipley closed the door on Reynolds in a 7-2 triumph at North Medford High.
"The first game of the playoffs you're always a little nervous and tense," said Bradshaw. "As the game went on I think we loosened up and the nerves got out."
The win advances the Black Tornado (24-4) to a second-round date at fourth-ranked Tualatin on Tuesday. The Timberwolves (22-5) were champions of the Pacific League and received a first-round bye.
A second-round appointment didn't appear to be in the cards early for North Medford. Mitch Ward slapped a leadoff single for Reynolds and scored from first after Tornado starter Matt Maurer's throw to first on a sacrifice bunt attempt sailed down the right field line.
After a groundout, Guy Randall had an RBI single and Taylor Gibbs singled before Maurer found his rhythm and struck out the next two batters.
Aiming to pick North back up from a 2-0 deficit, Hayden Wolfe walked on four pitches to lead off the bottom of the first. After stealing second, Wolfe scored on a single to right field by Bradshaw.
After a pair of strikeouts, Shipley came through with a clutch RBI single to plate Bradshaw and tie the game.
"I was pretty focused," said the junior. "I knew my team needed a hit and I just wanted to put a good swing on a good pitch and that's what I did and drove the ball into left field."
The Tornado picked up where it left off in the second inning, with Haggans taking second base after center fielder Ward misplayed his leadoff single. Jordan Ellis followed with a sacrifice bunt and reached safely when first baseman Kyle Shewmaker couldn't get a grip on the ball.
With one out, Bradshaw broke the tie with another RBI single to right field for a 3-2 lead.
"I just put good swings on good pitches and it came out right for me today," said the senior infielder.
That score held up until things got interesting again in the sixth when Reynolds' first two batters reached safely. Shipley got the call in relief and picked up some immediate support when catcher Collin Sowers picked off Shewmaker at second base.
"That helped a lot," said Shipley. "Collin did a great job behind the dish. He blocked a lot of balls for us. He didn't have the best day at the plate, but you can't hang your head and he didn't do that. He came back and did a great job for us."
After a strikeout, Reynolds managed to load the bases on an errant fielder's choice attempt and a single by Ward, with left fielder Shawn Whitehead coming up with a strong, quick throw to prevent a scoring attempt from third base.
Shipley calmly got out of the jam with another strikeout.
"We can't get the bunt down and we get back-picked at second base and then our No. 3 guy strikes out and we've got two outs and a runner at first, that was a killer," said Reynolds coach Kelly Larkin. "That was an absolute big momentum killer."
Everything took a final turn North Medford's way moments later, with Shipley ripping a leadoff single and scoring when Maurer's sacrifice bunt attempt was thrown away up the right field line by Reynolds starter Brandon White. In a scenario straight out of the Little Leagues, Maurer also came all the way around to score on the play that began with a 4-foot tapper.
A single by Jessie Hornbrook and double by Haggans set the stages for a sacrifice fly RBI by Wolfe and another run via error on a grounder by Bradshaw for a 7-2 lead.
"You play a good team and you've got to play solid to win, and we didn't execute," said Larkin. "If you don't execute, you get executed."
Shipley struck out two more batters to nail the game down in the seventh, finishing with four strikeouts and one hit allowed for his first save of the season.
Maurer improved to 8-1 after allowing no earned runs and seven hits through five innings. He struck out seven.
"Matt has been working really hard and this was really his best game as far as mechanically getting through his legs," said North coach Brett Wolfe. "His curveball was really good. ... He's only going to get better and it's at the right time."
Reynolds 200 000 0 — 2 8 4
North Medford 210 004 x — 7 8 2
White, Childs (6) and Van Atta; Maurer, Shipley (6) and Sowers. W — Maurer (8-1). L — White. S — Shipley (1). 2B — R: Keller; NM: Haggans.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com