Poised North upends Rams
Facing tense circumstances seemingly around every turn, North Medford's softball team didn't flinch Tuesday afternoon at Delta Park in Portland.
Behind the stellar pitching of senior Taylor Schmidt — who received errorless support — and one opportunistic inning, the Black Tornado scored a 2-0 triumph over Central Catholic in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
"From every kid, you could just see it in their eyes," said North Medford coach Mike Mayben. "They had that confidence and knew what they needed to get done. You never felt a sense of panic. They always had a sense of control and I was very impressed by that."
The Black Tornado (23-5) advances to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 and will play host to Oregon City (20-5) on Friday. The Three Rivers League champions used a seventh-inning rally to edge McNary 4-3 on Tuesday.
Even though North Medford advanced out of the first round of the state playoffs for the first time in four years last Friday, the Southwest Conference runner-up was poised to do even more on the road Tuesday.
Facing one of the state's best pitchers in Central Catholic junior Kaitlin Inglesby, who has already committed to the University of Washington, Mayben said his team had to play a more strategic game than usual. Inglesby's fastball has been clocked in the low 60s.
"Inglesby pitches real well and also hits real well and what we knew is we weren't going to let her beat us," said the coach. "We asked Taylor to pitch around her and we knew that teams that have been able to beat her have had to do it by playing small ball and we were able to do that."
Schmidt allowed four hits and struck out four with four walks — although three were drawn by Inglesby. The Tornado pitcher also induced 16 outs via ground balls or short pop-ups.
"She just did a real impressive job in the circle in controlling the strike zone and forced them to hit a lot of soft ground balls or pop-up outs. The biggest thing she did is she was able to keep the ball down really well. She knew what we were trying to do with Inglesby and Taylor really embraced that, and that's not easy for a pitcher to do."
Scoring against Central Catholic (23-4) wasn't an easy task either. The Mt. Hood Conference champions had allowed only 21 runs all season and countered with 144 of their own.
North finally broke through with one out in the fifth inning when Kelsey Leming slipped a grounder between the shortstop and third baseman for a single. Brittany Griffor followed with a line-drive to center field and both runners advanced on a double steal. Pinch-runner Sierra Berryessa then came in to score on a passed ball before Inglesby could post a strikeout.
With two outs, Jenna Stevens sent a line-drive into right field to plate Griffor for a 2-0 lead.
Schmidt and the Tornado defense then did the rest, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth with a ground ball back to the pitcher for one out at home and then a strikeout to end the threat.
"We just played extremely well defensively," said Mayben. "This was a tough game and a big one for us."
North Medford 000 020 0 — 2 5 0
Central Catholic 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
Ta. Schmidt and Wolfe; Inglesby and O'Harrow. W — Ta. Schmidt (22-5). L — Inglesby. 2B — NM: Ta. Schmidt.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org