North falls to Grant
Emblematic of how this baseball season has gone for North Medford, the Black Tornado went through all the highs and lows a group could muster Monday in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
From bases-loaded jams North Medford was able to get out of to some it couldn’t, from run production in five of the seven innings to a final tally of only four hits with 13 strikeouts … you name it and the Black Tornado rode that roller coaster of emotions in a 7-5 loss to Grant at North Medford High.
The visiting Generals scored twice in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game and tacked on three runs in the seventh before staving off North Medford, which scored once and had the tying runs on base in its final at-bat but couldn’t repeat some of the magic that helped the team finish second in the Southwest Conference.
“It’s just a situation where we came up short but I’m proud of them,” said North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe. “We just have to go back to work and the kids will do things that they do and the sun comes up tomorrow. It’s not easy but it’s all just a learning process that we’ll take with us.”
North Medford (15-12) twice owned a two-run advantage over Grant (18-9) in a rematch of last year’s playoff opener — won 9-0 by the Black Tornado — but the Generals kept plugging away and finally took their first lead in the top of the seventh.
A leadoff single by Reese Patanjo was followed by a pair of hit batters with one out to load the bases. A walk on a 3-2 count brought in the go-ahead run.
Zack Collins came on in relief of Berry Hunt but was greeted by a two-run single by Sammy Willman. Dallas Casebier came in and recorded the final two outs of the seventh.
“We definitely came down motivated,” said Grant head coach Matt Kabza, whose team will play fourth-seeded Lake Oswego in Wednesday’s second round. “There were multiple opportunities where I felt like we could’ve kind of hung ‘em up and just went home but they just continued to battle. They just showed they love the game of baseball and they have heart. I’m really proud of the way they competed.”
The same sense could be felt in the North Medford dugout after Hunt drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh and quickly came home on a double by Tate Cowden, his second two-bagger of the game.
“After that I definitely thought we were going to come back up and score a couple more runs,” said Cowden, “but it just didn’t happen.”
After reliever Sawyer Medlin got a key strikeout for the second out of the inning, Honus Kindreich walked to put the tying runs on base. But Medlin’s slingshot delivery again got North off-balance and he was able to earn his fifth strikeout in two innings on a 3-2 pitch to Dakota Adams.
“We wanted to battle no matter what the score was,” said Tornado senior Greyson Wolff, who was on deck with Adams at the plate and pitched the first four innings Monday. “We were just trying to fight and have a little pride and go out in the best way we could, it just didn’t work out for us today.”
After Wolff got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first with two big strikeouts, Kindreich plated his younger brother, Larson, in the bottom of the frame for a 1-0 North lead. In the third inning, Hunt walked, moved to third on Cowden’s ground-rule double to center field and scored on a groundout by Kasey Buchanan for a 2-0 edge.
Grant scored two unearned runs to tie it in the fourth but North Medford again answered, this time set up by a one-out single by Wolff. Pinch-runner Preston Johnson stole second, moved to third on a groundout by Quinton Rumrey and scored on a passed ball to help the Tornado regain a 3-2 advantage.
Buchanan’s RBI single in the fifth pushed North ahead 4-2 but four straight hits by Grant, which had 12 for the game, and a wild pitch forced a 4-all tie in the sixth inning and set the stage for a comeback by the Generals.
“They battled and they played a good game but we battled, too,” said Wolfe, “we just gave them too many opportunities with free passes and then had a couple key errors that opened the ballgame up, which is something that’s hurt us all year. The thing I’m proud of is our kids didn’t hang their heads, they bounced back and we put a run on the board in the seventh inning and had an opportunity there at the end.”
Two errors against Grant pushed North Medford’s total to 74 on the season, the highest by the Black Tornado in Wolfe’s 22 seasons at the helm.
Atherton, Medlin (6) and Velasco; Wolff, Hunt (5), Collins (7), Casebier (7) and Geyer, Wolff (5). W — Medlin (9-1). L — Hunt (1-5). 2B — G: Rappaport; NM: Cowden 2.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry