North Medford up for the challenge in opener
North Medford wasted little time in providing itself a challenge on the softball diamond for the 2022 season.
The Black Tornado also wasted little time in showing the rest of the state that the girls are ready to go this spring.
Seventh-ranked North Medford used a four-run third inning and strong pitching from sophomore Gabbi Urban to turn back West Albany, No. 3 in the Class 5A coaches poll, for an 8-3 victory at North Medford High.
“I think we came out pretty well-prepared to play today,” said Black Tornado coach Chris Campbell. “We’ve been working hard on being ready and being aggressive — doing some things at the plate and making sure we’re doing everything right on defense — and it all showed today that the practice they’ve been putting in is paying off in a big game like today.”
Urban was essentially untouchable in all but one inning, when West Albany scored all of its runs in the sixth inning after a hit batter and two walks — the last plating a run — set up Kenzie West for a two-run single.
“She had that one inning,” said Campbell, “but she got out of the inning OK and settled down and came back to close it out in the seventh.”
All told, the right-hander posted 13 strikeouts against four walks and three hits allowed.
“Gabbi was great in the circle,” said Campbell. “She just kept them off-balance. She had some good pitches working inside and outside, and mixed in an effective changeup every once in a while. She just continued to grind out there.”
Early run support made things a little easier, with sophomore Presley Lawton reaching base on a two-out error in the first inning and then scoring on an RBI single by Urban.
North Medford (1-0) broke the game open in the third inning after its first four batters each reached safely. Samara Miles got things going by drawing a leadoff walk, then advanced on a single by Lawton.
An error on Urban’s effort to right field set the stage for consecutive RBI efforts from Alyssa Hartzheim, Maddie Beers and Rhyan Hamlin.
“It was just an all-around effort at the plate today,” said Campbell.
North Medford tacked on another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Lawton and scored twice in the sixth to answer West Albany’s outburst on an RBI triple by Lawton and RBI single by Urban.
“We kind of kept the pressure on them to continue that momentum throughout the whole game,” said Campbell. “Presley drove in some key runs to kind of spark some rallies that we had.”
Lawton finished 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs for the Black Tornado, while Urban was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and senior Emily Dunn went 2-for-4 with one run and Miles, a junior, was 1-for-3 with two runs.
West Albany’s only other hits besides West’s sixth-inning effort came on singles by Adie McArthur and Kylie Carapinha, who had the first hit of the game against Urban with one out in the fifth inning.
North Medford will hit the road for its next three games before returning home to host the North Medford Spring Break Invitational slated Monday and Tuesday, with most games in the annual tournament being played at Lithia & Driveway Fields.
West and Carapinha; Urban and Lawton. W — Urban (1-0). L — West (0-1). 2B — NM: Dunn. 3B — NM: Lawton.
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