North closes out Scots
For a while during Monday’s Class 6A softball state playoff opener, North Medford had the look of a team more afraid to have its season come to an end than one revelling in a moment the girls had worked so hard to achieve.
There was some hesitancy on offense, a little nervous energy inside the circle and a general tiptoeing around the dugout at North Medford High.
Then the Black Tornado got a wakeup call in the form of a three-run third inning by visiting David Douglas that erased a 2-0 deficit.
After that, it was all business for third-seeded North Medford, which answered the call with an onslaught of hits and sensational defensive plays to garner a 13-3, five-inning victory over the Scots.
“I think we were just a little hesitant and probably playing with a little bit of fear,” said Black Tornado junior pitcher Rylan Austin. “But it’s going to be OK because we came back and we were really strong toward the end.”
North Medford (26-1) will look to build on that momentum Wednesday in the second round when it plays host to 14th-seeded West Albany, which was a 7-0 winner over Roseburg on Monday.
Junior Alex Barry and freshman sister Lauren Barry had RBI hits in the first and second innings, respectively, to build a 2-0 lead, but the Black Tornado squandered chances in each inning to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.
David Douglas (11-16) notched three of its six hits against Austin in the third inning, with Jennifer Olivia-Lopez lining an RBI single to left field and Bailey Haines blooping a single down the right-field line for a two-run hit and 3-2 Scots advantage.
“We did a good job of getting people on base and just getting not necessarily bombs over the fence but little dinker hits that just moved people around,” said David Douglas head coach Kelsey Stiff. “They did an excellent job of getting those runs in ... if we just could have done that a few more times.”
Those times were more than enough for Black Tornado head coach Mike Mayben, who called his team together following the surge and got an immediate response to his pep talk in the form of a leadoff double by senior daughter Taelor Mayben.
After Alex Barry reached on an error, Mayben came racing home for the tying run on a passed ball and Barry advanced all the way to third. Austin followed with a blistering double to the left-center gap for a 4-3 lead and pivotal answer by the Black Tornado.
Austin made quick work of the Scots in the top of the fourth to give her team another chance at the plate — bolstered by a nice running pick and throw by Lauren Barry at shortstop — and North Medford piled it on with consecutive hits by Olivia Lethlean, Mayben and Alex Barry before Austin did the most damage with a two-run single for a 7-3 advantage.
“I was just trying to move runners and get a base hit,” said Austin, who finished 4-for-4 with four RBIs. “That’s all I’m trying to do every time I’m up there. I don’t want to leave my teammates stranded on bases.”
Alex Barry’s diving snag to the right for the second baseman and quick relay to first base seemed destined to be the defensive gem of the game in the fifth. But senior left fielder Mahal Miles and senior catcher Jovanna Salvador followed that up soon after by throwing out Sydney Wallstrum at the plate to end the fifth after the Scots’ third straight hit of the frame threatened the scoreboard.
“Every team is going to get hits and we just have to adjust to that and get the outs that we need,” said Austin. “We had some great plays to get those outs, the girls did really good backing me up. They’re all studs.”
Mike Mayben was particularly proud of the defense exhibited by the Barry sisters, who made a few tricky plays look routine in support of Austin.
“Alex and Lauren Barry played exceptional defense today,” said the coach. “Those two kids up the middle did everything right, they attacked the ball and made the plays that we needed to make to keep us from having runners at second and third or maybe a runner scooting around because the ball gets by the middle infield.”
Energized by an inning full of defensive gems, North Medford used five hits in the bottom of the fifth inning to score six runs and end the game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule on an RBI single by Jordan Neathamer. Ashley Ripplinger’s two-run double highlighted the final surge.
“I think the biggest thing with this group, they’ve played together for so long there’s that tendency sometimes to have a little fear of it being over and they’re not ready for it to be over,” said coach Mayben. “We talked about that. This team has to come out here and play the game that they’ve worked on for the four years that they’ve been in here. With that many seniors, it’s got to be about just having fun together and playing together, and that’s what David Douglas did at the beginning of this game. That is a scrappy young team. They’re going to be very good over the next couple years.”
Five North players notched at least two hits as the team had 17 overall, with Mayben going 3-for-4 with four runs and one RBI, Alex Barry 2-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs, Lauren Barry 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs and Neathamer 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI.
“I think this makes me less nervous,” Austin said of winning her playoff pitching debut. “I was very nervous coming into the game, but knowing that the girls all have my back, I think we’re set from here on out.”
Wallstrum, Maxwell (5) and Ritchardson; Austin and Salvador. W — Austin (21-1). L — Wallstrum (4-8). 2B — NM: L. Barry, Mayben, Austin, Ripplinger.
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