The Black Tornado's Blake Mitchell steals third base in the fourth inning against South Salem High School at North Medford Friday. Mail Tribune Photo/ Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Tornado wins in a walk

North Medford may be putting up astronomical numbers in the Class 6A baseball state playoffs, but the Black Tornado isn't having any problems staying grounded.

Showing the poise and focus of a team determined to get back to the state championship game, North Medford was sensational for the third straight time in the playoffs on Friday.

The top-ranked Black Tornado complemented the strong arm of Matt Maurer by reaching double digits in hits en route to a convincing 15-2 quarterfinal win over No. 3 South Salem at North Medford High.

"For us, winning each and every game is important," said Maurer, who improved to 9-2. "Right now we just want to go win the next one."

The next challenge for North Medford (27-2) comes in the semifinals Tuesday at Tigard, which edged Centennial on Friday. The Tigers outslugged Grant 22-15 in the first round before earning one-run wins over No. 2-ranked West Linn (2-1) and Centennial (3-2).

The Black Tornado will enter Tuesday's game riding a scorching streak that has seen it outscore its three playoff foes by a combined 40-4 score, with a 48-11 advantage in hits.

North sent 16 batters to the plate in the fourth inning on Friday against the Saxons (20-9) and tallied 10 runs to break the game wide open.

"That's how it's been the past three games, we're peaking at the best time right now," said North senior Jordan Bostwick, who was 2-for-3 with five RBIs. "We're going into the semis with a lot of momentum."

That momentum also carries over to the mound, where Maurer and Andrew Jones have been sensational thus far.

On Friday, the sophomore Maurer struck out six straight and was responsible for 11 straight outs by strikeout at one point. He finished with 12 punchouts, marking the third straight playoff game that North's starting pitcher has reached double digits in strikeouts.

"I stayed focused today and really worked to hit my spots," said Maurer after allowing only three hits. "Everybody around me was real focused throughout the entire game and that really helps you pitch when you know you've got people behind you like that."

Combining Maurer's numbers with Jones and Zack Earle, who picked up one strikeout in relief Friday, the Tornado has posted 34 strikeouts thus far with only a handful of free passes.

The same couldn't be said for South Salem on Friday. The Saxons were undone by eight walks by starting pitcher Jonathan Sigado and four more free passes and a hit batter by reliever Alex Swogger.

"Walks hurt us today, and when we walked guys they capitalized on them," South Salem coach Josh Kerr said. "They're No. 1 in the state for a reason. They're a good ballclub, so when you put guys on for them they're going to clean them up."

The wheels began to fall off for South Salem in the second inning, when Kody Stevens and Colin Sowers drew leadoff walks and, after being sacrificed over by Blake Mitchell, scored on a two-run single by Maurer.

"I'm down at the bottom of the order and no one really expects anything out of me so it's kind of a free at-bat," said Maurer of the hit, which was his sixth straight in the playoffs. "I just go up there and have fun and swing."

South Salem scratched back with some good at-bats in the top of the fourth, with Joe Placek drawing a leadoff walk and scoring on a blistered double to left-center field by Matthew Cox. Sigado followed with a single and moved to second on an unchallenged stolen base to put the pressure on Maurer, but the left-hander remained poised and struck out three of the next four batters to end the threat.

"When you have a good team like that and a good pitcher like Maurer and you have a chance to score, you have to take advantage of it," said Kerr, "and we really didn't."

That missed opportunity was made more unbearable after the Black Tornado finished its turn in the fourth.

Cody James and Earle each earned one-out walks, but the real key was when Hayden Wolfe followed by beating out a throw on a high-hopping infield single. Bostwick followed with a bases-clearing triple that seemed to really take the wind out of the Saxons' sails.

"The first pitch was right there in my wheel-house so I just sat and drove it," said Bostwick. "That really set off everything, I think."

Jones followed with an RBI single to cap Sigado's day, but Swogger walked Stevens and Sowers fought off an 0-2 count and eventually smacked a two-run double to really break things open at 8-1.

James added an RBI single and Earle and Bostwick each walked to plate a run in the fourth. Submarine-style pitcher Justin Martinez came on in relief of Swogger and allowed an RBI single by Jones before finally getting out of the inning.

North added three runs in the fifth behind RBI singles from Earle, Bostwick and Jones, and South Salem scored an unearned run in the sixth to cap the scoring.

"You've just got to tip your hat to them," Kerr said of North. "They took advantage when they could and we didn't execute on that end today."

Jones finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs, putting him one shy of the North Medford High single-season record of 38 RBIs by K.C. Rumrey.

Wolfe, Bostwick, Sowers and Maurer each had two hits. Every North player scored at least once.

South Salem 000 101 0 — 2 3 0

North Medford 020 (10)30 x — 15 14 1

Sigado, Swogger (4), Martinez (4) and Bickler; Maurer, Earle (7) and Sowers. W — Maurer (9-2). L — Sigado (4-3). 2B — SS: Cox; NM: Sowers. 3B — NM: Bostwick.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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