South's Bryson Lake tags out North's Cory Pine (7) on a double play attempt on Tuesday. - Andy Atkinson

Down to the wire

Many levels of pressure caught up to South Medford senior Austin Griffin late Tuesday night at Harry & David Field.

On one hand, Griffin was in position to lift his team to a dramatic seventh-inning victory against cross-town rival North Medford with one out and teammate Bryson Lake standing at third base.

On the other hand, Griffin had just missed a first-pitch sign that called for a squeeze bunt, forcing Lake to quickly apply the brakes and luckily retreat safely back to the bag.

As Griffin would later point out, coming through for his team — and his own well-being — was not an option after that.

On the second pitch of his at-bat against North Medford starter A.J. Doolittle, Griffin put the ball in play against a drawn-in infield and had just enough on the hit to sneak the ball past the glove of diving second baseman Charlie Walker for the game-winner in South's 6-5 comeback victory.

"I just stuck my bat out there," Griffin said of the deciding effort. "Because Bryson's fast, I knew he'd make it in there if I got it on the ground. It worked out and now we can move on to Thursday."

Griffin's final big play was one among a handful Tuesday, with South and North laying it all on the line in a battle of the second-place teams in the Southern Oregon Hybrid. The teams exchanged or shared the lead in every inning beyond the third, with the Black Tornado snapping a 4-all tie with a run of its own in the seventh inning.

"Our kids battled their butt off," said North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe. "It was a great game with a lot of momentum changes. They're disappointed because you got beat by a cross-town rival but, if you look at it, they put everything on the field just like I asked and competed."

Doolittle was especially effective early, turning back South's first nine batters to pitch a spotless opening three innings. The senior right-hander used a constant barrage of curveballs to keep the Panthers (8-6, 4-3 SOH) at bay, with Lake finally breaking the string with a leadoff double in the fourth inning.

North opened a 2-0 lead off South starter Nate Namanny behind an RBI double by Taylor Raff that followed an error by third baseman Taren Bradd in the second and a groundout by Jessie Hornbrook in the third that plated Kevin Hoyt, who previously belted one of four doubles by the Tornado (6-9, 3-4) on Tuesday.

Sparked by Lake's double, which turned around freshman left fielder Micah Brown, South turned things around with three runs in the fourth. Lake eventually scored on a wild pitch and Namanny plated Ryan Wellock and Andrew Phillips on a single up the middle.

Phil Jovanovich helped minimize the damage moments later with a great play in the outfield. Ranging well to his right on a shot toward the right-center field gap, Jovanovich ran down a flyball by Pat Alexander and then doubled-off pinch-runner Daniel Jimenez with the help of a relay throw by Walker.

The Tornado came right back in the fifth with the tying run after a leadoff double by Brown and an RBI fielder's choice by Bryan Carbonell.

In the bottom of the fifth, South reclaimed the lead behind a leadoff single by Kanin Campbell, a sacrifice bunt by Eastman and RBI single by Lake despite a nice diving stop by Carbonell.

It was North's turn again in the sixth, with Walker setting the table on a leadoff single and two-out stolen base and Raff coming through on a single to center field that made it 4-all.

The Tornado looked to be in prime position for its second win this season over the Panthers when Cory Pine singled for his fourth hit of the game in a one-out situation. Carbonell sent Pine to third on a line-drive single to right field and Hornbrook brought him home with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Such an outcome didn't materialize, however, as South made its final at-bat count.

"I thought it was our game at that point, we just needed three outs," said Pine. "They came through, though. We came through, too, but they also came through and it just worked out that they were the home team and had the last at-bat."

Eastman's flare to right field started the rally, and he successfully stole second after Jimenez was unable to get a sacrifice bunt down and popped into a sliding catch by Doolittle. Lake followed with an innocent single to left field that turned into much more when Jovanovich inexplicably sent a high throw all the way to Pine at home plate that glanced off his glove despite a fully-extended leaping attempt.

Eastman had been held up at third on Lake's hit but turned his attentions toward home as the tying run when he saw the throw miss its mark. Lake also advanced to third on the throwing error, opening the door for Griffin and the Panthers.

"You put it in play and if they have to make a play, sometimes they're going to make errors," Lake said of the odd twist of fate. "That's just how baseball goes."

"That was big of Austin to come through after that and poke one up the middle for me to come in," added Lake, who went 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.

One-run games have become a fixture this season in the SOH, and being on the short end of the equation certainly takes its toll. South lost three straight one-run affairs earlier this season — including one at North — and the Tornado was coming off a 2-1 loss to Roseburg on Saturday.

"It's just tough losing two games like that, back-to-back fighting your heart out," said Pine.

"Tomorrow we're going to get right back after it and continue to build on what we're doing because I know we can win with this team," added Wolfe. "Tomorrow the sun comes up and we're going to battle again."

North Medford 011 011 1 — 5 10 2

South Medford 000 310 2 — 6 9 2

Doolittle and Pine; Namanny and Phillips. W — Namanny (3-3). L — Doolittle (1-2). 2B — NM: Pine, Raff, Hoyt, Brown; SM: Lake.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or email Follow him at

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