North rolls over South
South Medford couldn’t have asked for much more to begin Tuesday’s Southwest Conference baseball opener against North Medford.
The visiting Panthers pushed across a pair of runs in the opening frame on three hits and went seven batters deep for a 2-0 lead at North Medford High.
That moment in the sun proved fleeting, however, due in large part to a breakout effort by Black Tornado senior Berry Hunt.
After a leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning by Larson Kindreich, Hunt belted a two-run home run to tie the crosstown matchup.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Hunt then sent a three-run shot over the fence in his next at-bat to highlight a four-run second inning, and North Medford registered its 10th straight win over South Medford, this one ending 13-2 in five innings.
The Black Tornado (4-2, 1-0 SWC) will vie for a three-game series sweep of the Panthers (1-5, 0-1) on Saturday with a noon doubleheader at Harry & David Field.
“Berry’s a good player and he had a role for us last year, but obviously it’s a much bigger one this year,” said North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe. “We’ve been working so hard on our swings and trying to get good pitches to hit and he got a ball and squared up and took advantage of it. He was prepared for that situation.”
While Hunt may have been prepared, he certainly was a little surprised to see that his first-inning effort had cleared the fence. It was his first home run of the season.
“I was just looking for a ball to drive in the gap,” said Hunt, who finished 2-for-3 with two runs and five RBIs. “Off the bat I thought it was just a line drive in the gap and I guess it just kept carrying. I hit first base and I didn’t see the outfielders keep going for it so I just kept going.”
His second-inning home run off South starter Ethan Whitney had a little more air under it and was less of a shock, but still plenty satisfying for the first-year varsity starter.
“I wasn’t really trying too hard for it,” he said of back-to-back homers. “He left the ball up and I got a good piece of that one also and it felt good. I think the wind may have gotten behind it, but anything over the fence here is a really good hit so I was happy.”
That happiness carried through the North Medford lineup as the host rode the momentum of Hunt’s big blasts. Larson Kindreich, Kasey Buchanan, Honus Kindreich and Dakota Adams also had two hits apiece, with Larson Kindreich and Adams each driving in two runs.
“It was a huge game for us,” said Hunt. “I’m glad we worked as a team and were pulling on the rope together. We were really fired up about this game so I’m glad we got the win.”
After some first-inning issues, North Medford starter Greyson Wolff settled down and improved to 2-0 by allowing only two more hits (five overall) to go with four strikeouts in the final four frames.
“Anytime you can give a pitcher the lead and a couple runs — that way he doesn’t have to pitch perfect and has a little bit of leeway — then it will flow,” said Wolfe. “You can get in rhythm and compete in the zone and that’s exactly what he did. He was real confident coming out after that first inning.”
South Medford was brimming with confidence in the first inning after Cole Carder was walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Hunter Bradford singled to right field and Jack Thompson tomahawked a single to left field to put more pressure on North, with both advancing on a balk before Bradford scored on a groundout by Brandon Letendre.
Jaylin Parnell then reached for a single on a hot shot down the third-base line that skipped off the arm of Adams, but Wolff negated the damage by inducing an inning-ending groundout to Adams.
Of North Medford’s ensuing eight runs, only two went down as earned after South Medford committed five errors in the first three innings.
“We gave them a chance when we opened that door for them,” said South Medford head coach Ray Smith. “Looking at those 13 runs, I believe eight of them were scored after two outs with an error. You have to be able to defend the baseball and make routine plays and we didn’t do that very well today. When we opened the door, they didn’t walk through, they charged right through and we couldn’t turn it off.”
The final result didn’t carry much weight with Wolfe, who expects to be challenged on Saturday.
“I think South competes pretty good and has really good athletes out there,” said Wolfe. “That score is not really indicative of how good they can play.”
Whitney, Loogman (3) and Mahoney; Wolff and Geyer. W — Wolff (2-0). L — Whitney (1-1). 2B — NM: Buchanan 2. HR — NM: Hunt 2 (2).
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