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Crosstown classic

When Olivia Lethlean sets her mind to something, look out.

The speedy North Medford junior outfielder is as determined as she is fast, North Medford head softball coach Mike Mayben said, and that combination proved effective on Tuesday.

Lethlean scored the lone run using her wheels as the Black Tornado edged crosstown rival South Medford, 1-0, during Southwest Conference action at North Medford High.

Lethlean led off the bottom of the first inning with a bunt single, stole second base and third base and then came home on a Panther error.

"She is extremely fast, but what people don't know is she is the most competitive kid on our team," Mayben said. "For her, that was a steak dinner. She wanted to take every base and score a run."

Aside from that series of offensive events, Tuesday's tilt was mostly about pitching.

North senior Sarah Thomas tossed a four-hitter with 13 strikeouts and one walk to improve to 10-1. Junior lefty Pat Moore, her counterpart, was also dominant, throwing a three-hitter with 15 Ks and two walks.

"We said going in that it was going to be a battle just to get on base today," Mayben said.

Lethlean finished 2-for-3 and Taelor Mayben doubled for the Black Tornado (10-1, 6-1 SWC), which has won three straight.

"I just wanted to get on base any way I could and make things happen," said Lethlean, who saw her opportunity to score from third base after South third baseman Jewell Burgoyne-Russell mishandled a throw from catcher Bailee Tatum.

"When I got on, I knew I was going to steal and be in a good chance to score a run,” said Lethlean. “... It's an ecstatic feeling. It feels good knowing you are one base away from scoring. When Mike said, 'Go,' I knew I was scoring a run."

The Panthers (9-2, 5-2) came close to evening things a few times. In the fourth inning, Burgoyne-Russell singled with one out and then Tatum was walked before a popup and strikeout ended the threat.

Jeryka Johnson and Moore led off the sixth inning with back-to-back singles before South recorded three straight outs.

And then South's Jaden Alexander drilled a leadoff double to the center field wall to lead off the seventh, only to have Thomas to fan the final three batters.

The Panthers were in search of their first victory over North since April 15, 2008.

"You are one hit from a different ballgame," South head coach Miranda Gillaspie-Smith said. "That's really all it is."

During the pressure-packed moments, Thomas said she just tried to stay calm.

"No matter the situation, the past is the past (and) you really can't change anything," said Thomas, who owned a perfect game until the fourth inning. "Our pitching coach's motto is that the most important pitch is the next one. So you kind of just look forward. I'm not looking for strikeouts or anything. I'm just trying to hit my spots, and if they put the ball in play my defense will back me up. It definitely builds confidence in me for sure."

Thomas appreciated the early run support.

"I think we came out and executed and did what we wanted to do," Thomas said. "They put me in a good position, especially when we get up early in the game, that really helps me."

North shortstop Rylan Austin made an eye-popping diving catch for the first out of the third inning.

Coach Mayben said he loved his team's hunger and composure.

"They love the pressure and they thrive on it," he said. "They love to get after it."

South Medford;000;000;0;—;0;4;1

North Medford;100;000;x;—;1;3;0

Moore and Tatum; Thomas and Kucera. W — Thomas (10-1). L — Moore (9-2). 2B — SM: Alexander; NM: Mayben.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt


North Medford pitcher Sarah Thomas winds up for a delivery. She pitches a four-hit shutout, striking out 13 South Medford batters, including three in the seventh inning of the Southwest Conference game. MAIL TRIBUNE / DENISE BARATTA
South Medford third baseman Jerewll Burgoyne-Russell, left, chases after the ball after it got away from her as shortstop Katie Meyers (4) covers the bag. North Medford's Olivia Lethlean scored the game's lone run on the play. MAIL TRIBUNE / DENISE BARATTA