Tornado, Panthers are study in contrasts on diamond

The path to this point has been vastly different for the baseball teams at North Medford and South Medford high schools, but each will enter today's Southwest Conference matchup as the lone teams without a league blemish.

Game time is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Harry & David Field.

It's of little surprise the heralded Black Tornado is 14-1 overall and 3-0 in SWC play considering North's recent pedigree as Class 6A state champions in 2007 and a semifinalist last year.

For South Medford, which won a total of five league games last year, one could safely say being tied for the SWC lead after one week is a bit of a surprise. After all, the Panthers (10-5) returned only three starters and were picked to finish in a tie for last place in a preseason poll by the coaches.

The differences between the teams, however, goes well beyond predictions or history.

North Medford leads the conference with 121 runs scored compared to only 29 runs allowed, outscoring teams by an average of 8-2. South Medford's numbers are closer to the vest, with the Panthers scoring 85 runs but allowing 71 to earn a slight 6-5 scoring edge per contest.

"Our guys really battled, and they're playing great defense," said South Medford coach Tom Britton after Saturday's upsets of Sheldon, 5-2 and 5-4 in eight innings. "We're pitching by committee but getting it done."

Against the Irish, who were picked to place third in the league behind Roseburg and North, the Panthers went with five pitchers to get the job done — including two stints apiece by Jordan Lundgren and Brandon Dollarhide. Dollarhide actually took the mound twice in the same game to earn the Game 2 victory. Lundgren earned the opening triumph, coming on in relief of Isaac Rolie with one on and no one out in the fifth inning and throwing three 1-2-3 innings.

"Jordan had a really good day," said Britton of the senior. "He brought that linebacker football mentality that he has to the baseball field."

There's no such committee work going on across town, where North junior Matt Maurer is one of the top pitchers in the Northwest and is flanked by dependable pitchers Brady Shipley and Hayden Wolfe.

Maurer (5-0) struck out 14 and allowed six hits in a 6-1 victory over Grants Pass on Saturday, while Shipley kept pace at 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league with his own six-hitter in the Tornado's 9-5 win in the opening game of that twin bill.

Strikeouts and limited runs allowed have always been a forte for pitchers in Brett Wolfe's program at North Medford, and all of the team's current starters fit the bill.

South Medford, however, played 15 innings Saturday and managed only one strikeout to put the onus on a defense that proved error-free in making 44 putouts.

About the only similarity in the teams is the clutch nature in which each has performed during tense circumstances.

The Panthers scored four unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth innings to win Game 1 against Sheldon and then put up a single run over the final five innings to win the eight-inning nightcap. Last Tuesday against Roseburg, North Medford found itself down 5-4 with only two outs to play with before Colin Sowers provided the biggest hit of the season with a three-run, walk-off home run.

Given the contrasts, something will have to give when the teams meet on the diamond today.


SCHOLARSHIPS TO FIVE area athletes have been doled out within the past two weeks at $1,500 apiece.

North Medford senior tennis standout Colt Hoeptner was one of eight students selected to receive a 2009 USTA Pacific Northwest Glenn Lovett College Scholarship. Hoeptner plays No. 1 singles for the Black Tornado and was runner-up Saturday in the Jesuit Invitational, one of the top tournaments in the high school season.

Hoeptner, of Eagle Point, also serves as a tennis instructor for Medford's Parks and Recreation Department. A ski accident in which he tore anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, as well as suffered a meniscus tear, in his knee cost Hoeptner his junior season at North Medford.

Four local standout runners were also honored recently during Pear Blossom Run festivities with annual scholarships given out by the Southern Oregon Runners. Crater seniors Kayleigh Tyerman and Zach Elliott were joined by South Medford senior Piper Delaney and Phoenix senior Elliott Jantzer as recipients.

The Southern Oregon Runners Club, formerly the Sizzlers, has awarded around $65,000 over the years to Jackson County seniors who are leaders in the running community.


SCOTT MORSE AND BRITTNEY NEWCOMB each were on the end of tough losses Saturday as members of the Oregon team in the Northwest Shootout at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.

Suffering from a lack of firepower and inconsistent shooting, Morse's Oregon boys team was no match for a Washington team featuring at least four players who have committed to Division I schools. Morse, a senior forward from Cascade Christian, finished with seven points as the team's fifth-leading scorer, but Washington won, 101-81.

The overall talent pool was decidedly in favor of the Washington girls as well with nine players headed for Division I schools, but Newcomb's squad held tough to the end before falling, 75-65. Newcomb, a senior guard from South Medford, was the fifth-leading scorer for Oregon with six points.


SOUTHERN SKY boys basketball will be vastly different next season with three of the five coaches in the league having stepped down in recent weeks.

Klamath Union coach Bret Crawford became the latest to resign his post, exiting after 12 seasons with the Pelicans. Crawford, 46, intends to go back to school and work on a master's degree in hopes of moving into administration.

Earlier, head coaches at Crater (Troy McNichols) and Mazama (Randy Rose) also tendered resignations.

Crawford was named Southern Oregon Conference coach of the year in 2006 and his 139 career wins rank fourth among KU coaches.

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

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