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PREP BASEBALL: Tornado snaps skid with walk-off winner

It’s way too early in the season for North Medford’s baseball team to be in desperation mode, but you couldn’t blame the Black Tornado for feeling like a weight was lifted off its shoulders Tuesday night.

After dropping three straight games — and not necessarily in pretty fashion — North Medford snapped its skid with a clutch walk-off single by junior Aiden Horsley for a 5-4 win over McNary at Lithia & Driveway Fields.

“Right guy in the right spot, 100%. It was a much-needed hit,” said North Medford coach Kerry Curtis, whose team started the season 3-0 but had lost five of its last six contests entering Tuesday. “I think the last game we had three hits and we needed guys to start hitting with runners in scoring position. We needed to start putting the ball in play and keeping the ball out of the air and, really from the top to the bottom of the order today, we had quite a bit of production.”

Davis Carr opened the bottom of the seventh for North (5-5) by drawing a walk and was sacrificed to second base by Marcus Moore before McNary (4-6) opted to intentionally walk Jeremiah Robbins.

After a balk advanced each runner, the Celtics chose to intentionally walk Johnny King to load the bases and set up a force play at any base. Horsley, who finished 4-for-5, made that a moot point when he singled between the shortstop and third baseman for an RBI single.

Tuesday’s game got off to a rousing start with a leadoff home run by Robbins, who wound up drawing three walks thereafter. North pushed its lead to 4-0 in the second inning after Frankie Rutigliano got things going with a leadoff double and was followed by a Trey Newmann RBI single to build momentum for a big frame that included an RBI single by Robbins and sacrifice fly by King.

The Black Tornado limited McNary to six hits but offered up nine free bases — seven walks by Rutigliano that paved the way for the Celtics to even the score at 4-all in the fifth inning.

“We’re trying to cut those free passes down on the mound and get pitchers pitching with confidence again and hitters hitting with confidence again,” said Curtis. “If you get leadoff runners on base, you’re gonna score, and we did that consistently today, which opens up our opportunities to do different things.”

McNary0021100—460

North Medford1300001—5110

J. Allen, Ready (5) and B. Allen; Rutigliano, Newmann (5) and Robbins. W — Newmann (2-1). L — Ready. 2B — M: Araiza, Bach, Aicher; NM: Rutigliano. 3B — M: Araiza; HR — NM: Robbins.

ASHLAND 9, NORTH VALLEY 4: At Ashland, Tripp Repp and Keller Bloodworth each had two hits and two RBIs to help Ashland to its fourth straight victory.

The Grizzlies (8-1) scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to erase a 4-1 deficit and record the comeback win over Class 4A North Valley at North Mountain Park.

Sean Thompson also had an RBI for the Grizzlies, while Freeman Rountree scored a pair of runs.

Ashland starter Noah Shrader allowed five hits and four runs (two earned) over five innings. He walked two and struck out one.

North Valley0120100—495

Ashland010071x—982

Kissel, Pezqueda (5) and Elzy; Shrader, Rosenthal (6) and Wright, Shrader (6). W — Shrader. L — Kissel. 2B — NV: Elzy. 3B — A: Repp.

CASCADE CHRISTIAN 8, UMPQUA VALLEY CHRISTIAN 5: At Roseburg, Jack Knips connected for a three-run double in the sixth inning to give Cascade Christian a 7-2 lead and the Challengers held off a seventh-inning rally to gain the nonleague win.

Austin Waits also had an RBI double for Class 3A top-ranked Cascade Christian (9-1).

Cascade Christian0030041—874

Umpqua Valley Christian1001003—573

Letendre, Knips (3), Reed (6), Stofflet (7) and Thompson; Simonson, Withers (7) and Hellenthal. W — Knips. L — Simonson. 2B — CC: Knips, Benade, Waits; UVC: Withers. 3B — CC: Wallace.

base.Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford's Aiden Horsley, seen here in a file photo from last season, drove in the game-winning run Tuesday night with a walk-off single against McNary.