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Roseburg surprises Tornado

The Southwest Conference softball race just got a little more interesting in an unexpected way Tuesday at North Medford High.

Roseburg junior Madysn Blevins limited the state’s second-highest scoring offense to one hit after the third inning and the Indians capitalized on a rare off day by North Medford ace Rylan Austin to pull out a surprise 6-3 victory.

The road win snapped North Medford’s 10-game winning streak, a stretch that saw the Black Tornado (13-3, 8-1 SWC) outscore its opponents 127-15, and gave Roseburg (9-6, 6-3) its biggest win of the season two weeks after it was swept by Grants Pass. It also narrowed North Medford’s lead over Grants Pass in the SWC standings to a half-game.

“We obviously have the eight (league titles) in a row that we want to continue with, but at the point where we’re at right now, we’re not really checking that,” North Medford coach Chris Campbell said. “We just want to play competitive in each and every game and do the best we can. This conference has gotten a lot better. There are some really good teams and a lot of young teams that have been together for a while and they’re starting to catch up, and we cannot let that happen.”

Already up 3-2, Roseburg added some important insurance in the top of the fifth when cleanup hitter Samie Bergmann shanked Austin’s first pitch just over the head of shortstop Lauren Barry with runners on second and third for a bloop single that drove in two runs.

The Tornado was able to cut into the deficit when Ella Ivens scored on a throwing error in the sixth, but the Indians got it back in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for Blevins to finish what she started.

The Indians’ ace, who’s headed to the Air Force Academy where she’s planning to play softball, was one routine play away from a 1-2-3 seventh when a throwing error by third baseman Jordan Gibson extended the game, but Blevins herself quickly extinguished any hope of a Tornado miracle, gloving a squibber off the bat of Austin to end the game.

Blevins said she worked on her screwball before the game. The plan, she said, was to work the outer half of the plate against North’s lefties, sucking fly balls directly into Roseburg’s hard-left shift. North’s spray chart says it worked — roughly six out of every seven balls the Tornado put in play went to the left side of the field, with Kylie Baker’s line out to right-center going down as the only hard-hit fly to the right side of the outfield.

“So my location was the thing to really focus on, with (North Medford) especially,” Blevins said. “You can’t just leave it flat on the plate because they’re a good hitting team.”

“We didn’t come inside, didn’t throw the offspeed much to their lefties, and I think everybody executed that real well,” Roseburg coach Brad Deaver said.

Chelby Smalley (2-for-3, two doubles) and Grace Johnson (3-for-3) were North Medford’s only players with multiple hits, as the Tornado was held to one earned run on seven hits three days after scoring 30 runs in a doubleheader sweep of South Medford.

“I don’t think it was anything she was doing. I think our team was just getting used to the ball and when we hit it we hit it just right at people,” Johnson said. “We just got a little bit unlucky.”

“(Blevins) did a great job,” Campbell added. “She kept us off balance and that’s what she’s got to do. ... She mixed in her change-up and worked us in and out and we just didn’t put the good part of the bat on the ball today. Like I said, we’re going to have those days.”

North Medford scored the first run of the game on a fielding error in the second and was in position to add to it with runners on second and third and one out, but Blevins struck out Neveah Smith looking and got Barry, North’s leadoff hitter, to line out to short.

Grants Pass used a two-out rally in the third to take a lead it never relinquished, with Gibson driving in the first with a double to the wall in left-center and Katie Ladd driving in two more with a line-drive triple to right-center.

North appeared well on its way to erasing the deficit with its own two-out surge in the bottom half of the inning, but a base-running miscue ended a promising rally. Facing off against Blevins with a runner at second, Johnson lined a single to left that scored Ella Ivens from second. Moments later, Monique Kruse hit a line drive up the middle and Johnson was caught over-running third. She was tagged out after a short rundown.

That proved to be about all the help Blevins would need. She made quick work of the next six Black Tornado batters, including an eight-pitch fifth, and took care of the last North Medford batter in both the sixth and seventh with unassisted defensive plays, leaving runners stranded at second both times.

Campbell said North won’t dwell on the loss, and he’s confident it’ll bounce back. After all, he pointed out, this team has done it before.

“We’ve got to put in the work and not go backwards,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to continue to get better every day. The same thing happened last year. We lost to South (Medford) in that one game and from there on out we were lights out. I expect these girls to compete the same way and battle every time we’re at the plate or every opportunity they get to field the ball.”

Roseburg 003 020 1 — 6 10 4

North Medford 011 001 0 — 3 7 1

Blevins and Bergmann; Austin and Smalley. W — Blevins. L — Austin (13-2). 2B — R: Gibson; NM: Smalley 2. 3B — R: Ladd.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North's Ella Ivens slides into to home plate underneath the throw to Roseburg's Samie Bergmann in the 3rd inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune North's Grace Johnson gets a hit in the 2nd inning.