North heads to semifinals
It took a glancing blow off a helmet and speed around the bases for North Medford to stay alive in a tight extra-inning 4-3 win Friday and send the third-seeded Black Tornado to the Class 6A softball state semifinals.
North Medford held a slim 3-1 lead over Glencoe into the seventh inning, but the Crimson Tide roared back to tie the score. It took one extra inning to set up North’s furious finish, as freshman Grace Johnson slid into home with the winning run to send her team to a Tuesday duel at home against No. 7 Tualatin (24-3).
The 4-3 victory in eight innings was in doubt until the end. It looked as though the Black Tornado (28-1) would seal the deal, but the Metro League Crimson Tide (24-6) fought back. That set the stage for the grand finale.
With the score tied at 3-all, Rylan Austin hit a single to start the eighth inning heroics. Johnson, as she did in two previous innings, came in to pinch-run for Austin. Ashley Ripplinger reached first on a sacrifice bunt when the throw caromed off her helmet at first and sailed into right field.
Johnson raced from first to home with the winning run just before Glencoe catcher Ashlynn Bailey could get the throw to make the tag.
In a cloud of dust, Johnson was mobbed by her teammates.
“She is quick,” said North Medford coach Mike Mayben. “These games push you, but we are calm under pressure.”
That included Taelor Mayben, who led the North Medford attack with a double and a single, scoring twice. Austin’s first-inning double sent Mayben home for the game’s first run, and Ripplinger followed with an RBI single to drive Alex Barry across the plate.
North Medford picked up an insurance run in the fifth, when Mayben singled and scored as a result of Glencoe errors.
“I try to help,” said the senior third baseman. “We love this game and we love our teammates. We work together and that keeps us going.”
The Crimson Tide got a run in the third when Jensen Becker hit a single and scored on a two- base error. They wouldn’t score again until the seventh, when Megan Craig and Alivia Eastman crossed the plate to tie the game at 3-3.
Austin again shined from the circle, striking out six, giving up six hits and walking just one batter. She is now 23-1 on the season.
“She did an amazing job,” coach Mayben said. “She also hits exceptionally well.”
Glencoe coach Jason Eastman was proud of his team in defeat.
“It was fun to watch,” he said. “When you get to the quarterfinals, you expect to play this kind of game. We thrive on competition and leave it all on the field.”
The Crimson Tide are no stranger to tough losses in the playoffs. They were down to their last strike before beating Barlow to advance to Friday’s game. Glencoe starter Isabel Womack allowed eight hits and had two crucial strikeouts in the seventh to help send the game into extra innings.
But the Tornado got just what it needed in an eighth-inning mad dash to home to move to the next round.
Womack and Bailey; Austin and Salvador. W — Austin (23-1). L — Womack. 2B — NM: Austin, Mayben.