Tornado turns back Colts
For all the issues North Medford has had defensively this baseball season, the Black Tornado came up with three key plays to support a gritty effort by senior pitcher Greyson Wolff in a 6-5 win over Thurston on Tuesday.
The visiting Colts had the tying run on third base in the fifth and seventh innings — only to be denied — and had a sixth-inning rally clipped by a perfectly turned double play to help North Medford grab a stronghold on second place in the Southwest Conference.
The Black Tornado (15-9, 12-7 SWC) holds a two-game lead on South Eugene in the conference standings and, more importantly, remains among the top 10 in the Class 6A power rankings heading into Saturday’s final doubleheader at Thurston (7-17, 6-13).
“We haven’t played perfect baseball all year but the thing I like about this team is they don’t quit and that stuff doesn’t get us down,” said North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe, whose team overcame four errors Tuesday. “We just continue to battle and that’s what you have to do. In life you have to battle and this season is simulating life more than anything right now because it’s not easy and we’ve had to grind out every game.”
That mentality held strong for Wolff, who allowed eight hits with six strikeouts and two intentional walks. He gave up three earned runs and maintained his resolve despite a rough start that saw two of Thurston’s first three batters reach base on error. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Wolff induced a run-scoring groundout to first base and then secured a strikeout to minimize the damage.
“Coach Wolfe kind of preaches that bulldog mentality and so we’ve just got to bear down,” said Wolff. “It doesn’t really matter what happens around us, we’ve just got to focus on the job at hand and that’s just what I tried to do.”
Wolff’s teammates picked him up with RBI efforts from Kasey Buchanan and Honus Kindreich to plate Berry Hunt and Tate Cowden, respectively, for an immediate answer in the bottom of the first inning.
After Thurston evened the game at 2-all with another unearned run in the top of the fourth, North Medford again came firing back with four runs of its own, highlighted by a two-run double over the left fielder by junior Justin Geyer. Courtesy runners Wyatt Baptiste and Dallas Casebier were each on the move on the fateful hit-and-run by Geyer.
“Justin’s a good hitter and by putting that on it just took the decision away from him so he could relax,” said Wolfe, “and he finally drove the baseball like he’s capable of doing.”
Larson Kindreich and Tate Cowden each followed with RBI singles, which would prove crucial after Thurston rallied with three runs in the top of the fifth inning thanks to a two-run double by Kyle Chapman.
The Colts had Chapman on third base when David Travelstead hit a grounder that third baseman Dakota Adams showed great range on in scooping up the ball and firing a strike to first base for a pivotal third out.
Thurston again put pressure on in the sixth by putting the leadoff runner on base for the fifth time in the game but that was quickly negated by a double play turned by second baseman Cowden and shortstop Hunt.
In the seventh, a one-out double by Logan Sebright was followed by a groundout that advanced him 90 feet away from scoring, but Wolff got Chapman to send a grounder to Hunt, who fielded cleanly and sent a low throw to Honus Kindreich at first base that was picked cleanly for the final out.
“That wasn’t an easy pick,” said Wolfe. “The ground’s hard and dry so that’s a great pick from Honus over here at first base.”
Kindreich’s clutch effort resulted in a big hug from Wolff, who improved to 6-2 with the win on senior day for North Medford and also went 2-for-2 with a walk.
“On a senior day you like to walk off and get a win,” said Wolfe. “We’ve been scrappy all year so a one-run win, we’ll take it.”
Larson Kindreich and Cowden each went 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI while Buchanan was 2-for-3 with one RBI to help pace the Tornado. Trevor Duran was 2-for-2 with one run and one RBI and Chase Elliott 2-for-3 for Thurston, while pitcher Cade Bates struck out seven with three walks.
Bates and Travelstead; Wolff and Geyer. W — Wolff (6-2). L — Bates. 2B — T: Chapman, Sebright; NM: Wolff, Geyer.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry