Shaun Whitehead, shown here in a game earlier this summer, pitched most of the way and had the key hit as North Medford won in the Legion A state tourney Sunday. - Larry Stauth Jr.

Whitehead's hit keeps Mavs alive

Shaun Whitehead wanted desperately to win the game for the North Medford Mavericks.

When the opportunity to do it with his pitching vanished, he did it with his bat.

Whitehead singled in Cory Haggans with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Mavericks an 8-7 win over North Eugene Sunday and keep them alive in the American Legion A State Tournament at North Medford High.

The Mavericks (27-11), who are 2-1 in the tournament, face La Grande at noon today in a loser-out contest in the double-elimination affair, which shifts to nine-inning games today and Tuesday. La Grande's first setback came in the late game Sunday, 16-0 to Roseburg, which is the tourney's lone unbeaten team.

Whitehead started on the mound against North Eugene and battled admirably. He didn't pitch in high school ball last spring and was pressed into duty midway through the summer only after injuries depleted the Mavs' staff and necessitated it.

He'd built a 5-1 record heading into Sunday's contest and was working on a 7-4 lead to start the seventh.

But after getting the first two North Eugene batters out, Whitehead allowed a double to Luke Ferrenburg, then walked Alex Crum and Jonny Lari to load the bases.

Michael Phillips followed with a bases-clearing double that tied it at 7-7. His shot to the right-center field gap bounced wickedly and caromed off the wrist of center fielder Haggans. Haggans' throw to first baseman Hayden Evans took a short hop and ricocheted away, allowing Lari to score from first base.

Had the ball been relayed cleanly, said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe, "he would have been out by 15 or 20 feet. They took a shot, a gamble, and we didn't play it clean."

Rather than getting the out and the win, Whitehead instead was replaced by Will Albright.

"He pitched really well and we should have been out of the inning," said Wolfe. "We didn't play real solidly to keep runners at 90 feet. We gave up more than 90 feet, and that allowed them to score some runs."

Whitehead, who had good pop on his fastball and gained command of his breaking pitch in the third inning, wasn't ready to come off the mound.

"He was very disappointed and frustrated because he wanted to get the win," said Wolfe. "He felt like he was pitching well and didn't want to come out. No competitor wants to come out."

Nevertheless, Whitehead was ushered to left field and Albright took over. Albright induced an inning-ending pop up to shortstop, then North Medford took its turn in the bottom of the frame.

Haggans led off with a single to left field, and Phillip Jovanovic moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. With first base open and aware that Whitehead had struck out his previous two at-bats, North Eugene intentionally walked Chris Anderson, who had two hits and two RBIs.

Whitehead then stepped in and laced Jordan Smith's second pitch, bringing in Haggans.

"He's a kid who competes," Wolfe said of Whitehead, "and he was able to put it (being pulled) behind him. He's really the heart and soul of what we do sometimes, and that time he drove the ball to right-center to win the game for us."

North Medford scored three runs in each of the second and third innings.

In the second, Jesse Hornbrook doubled and Haggans singled. Hornbrook scored on a wild pitch, then Jovanovic doubled in Haggans and scored on an Anderson single.

In the third, Cody James singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Haggans. After a Jovanovic single, Anderson and Whitehead spanked RBI singles.

The Mavericks made it 7-4 in the sixth when Michael Paxton singled and scored from first on a long single by James.

Haggans was 3-for-4 with three runs and an RBI. Jovanovic, Anderson, James and Whitehead all had two hits.

Phillips drove in four runs on two hits for North Eugene, and Crum was 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs.

North Eugene 200 002 3 — 7 14 0

North Medford 033 001 1 — 8 13 3

Smith and Lari; Whitehead, Albright (7) and Pine. W — Albright. L —Smith. 2B — NE: Moore, Ferrenburg, Phillips; NM: Jovanovic.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail

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