Zack Earle didn't have the highest batting average or drive in as many runs as his peers, but the overall body of work put on display this season by the North Medford senior put him over the top during the recent all-star selections in Southwest Conference baseball.
Be it his consistently strong defense at shortstop, his spark plug efforts as leadoff hitter or his newfound role as No. 3 starting pitcher for the top-ranked Black Tornado, Earle provided a little bit of everything to help lead North to the SWC championship.
"He's a leader and he's a first-class citizen," said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe of Earle. "He represents what our league is about with his character and work ethic. He strives for excellence and is a good representative for our league and our school."
Earle committed only one error in the field at shortstop, hit .340 with 13 runs scored and went 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his first season on the mound.
As testament to his commitment and slick fielding, Earle recently pulled off an eye-popping double play against Oregon City in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Even with North Medford ahead 9-0 in the fourth inning, Earle ranged left on a hard hit ball up the middle, sliding at the last moment to glove the ball behind second base and then bouncing up quickly to touch second and complete the relay.
The reaction from his coach? Wolfe quietly sounded out the SportsCenter theme: Duh-na-na, duh-na-na.
"He's made plays that just shouldn't have been made and turned them into routine plays," said the 14th-year Black Tornado coach. "He's just been phenomenal."
Earle was joined by four teammates on the all-SWC first team, while Wolfe was named SWC coach of the year.
"It's a reflection of the kids," Wolfe said in downplaying his first-ever coach-of-the-year award. "Coaches can help kids, but players win ballgames and you have to have talented players to win something like this. We've had them in the past, too, but this is a good group."
Sophomore pitcher Matt Maurer posted a 7-2 record and 0.94 ERA to earn first-team honors, with senior first baseman Kody Stevens (.478, 18 RBIs, 12 runs), senior right fielder Blake Mitchell (.479, 18 RBIs, 13 runs) and junior left fielder Hayden Wolfe (.404, nine RBIs, 16 runs) also selected to the first team.
"All those guys had great years," said coach Wolfe. "The nice thing about our lineup is one guy doesn't have to do it all. We've been fortunate and always have one or two guys there to pick us up. Guys like Kody Stevens, Blake and Hayden are a reflection of that philosophy and of those things happening in our lineup."
Senior shortstop John Adamson was the only South Medford player to earn first-team recognition after hitting .389 with 12 RBIs and 22 runs scored for the Panthers.
Grants Pass earned three spots on the first team in sophomore infielder Brandon Drury (.376, 19 runs), senior outfielder Erik Davidson (.339, 15 RBIs) and senior utility player Zach Morgan (.347, 12 runs).
Rounding out the 16-player first team were Roseburg pitcher Brandon Jackson, catcher Jordan Guthrie, shortstop Boone Farrington and right fielder A.J. Royal; Sheldon pitcher Zach Manley, catcher Wyatt Davis and second baseman Ben Higgins.
Only Earle, Farrington and Guthrie were repeat selections to the all-SWC first team after North Medford's Andrew Jones and Jordan Bostwick and Grants Pass' Buddy Saxon were named to the second team.
Jones, who was a first-team all-state pick last year, joined Jackson as the only pitchers in the league to go undefeated at 6-0 while also standing as the Black Tornado's top run-producers when not on the mound.
"I would trade any coach of the year award to allow him to be a first-teamer because he's a first-team talent," said coach Wolfe. "He's led our club and without him, we wouldn't be where we're at."
Likely hindering Jones' cause was the fact that the senior was ejected from two league games, once for yelling at an opponent after a hard collision involving Earle and another time for allegedly criticizing an umpire's called third strike against Hayden Wolfe in Roseburg.
"It's disappointing, but at the same time it's a life lesson," said coach Wolfe.
Player Pos Team Yr.
Matt Maurer P North Medford So.
Brandon Jackson P Roseburg So.
Zach Manley P Sheldon Jr.
Wyatt Davis C Sheldon Jr.
Jordan Guthrie C Roseburg Jr.
Zack Earle IF North Medford Sr.
Boone Farrington IF Roseburg Sr.
Ben Higgins IF Sheldon Jr.
John Adamson IF South Medford Sr.
Brandon Drury IF Grants Pass So.
Blake Mitchell OF North Medford Sr.
Hayden Wolfe OF North Medford Jr.
A.J. Royal OF Roseburg Sr.
Erik Davidson OF Grants Pass Sr.
Kody Stevens 1B North Medford Sr.
Zach Morgan UT Grants Pass Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Zack Earle, North Medford.
COACH OF THE YEAR — Brett Wolfe, North Medford.
Player Pos Team Yr.
Andrew Jones P North Medford Sr.
Matt Thomson P Roseburg Jr.
Zach Kayser P Sheldon So.
Dakota Cavens P Roseburg Jr.
Colin Sowers C North Medford So.
Buddy Saxon C Grants Pass Sr.
Peter Straka IF Sheldon Sr.
Griff Boyd IF South Medford Sr.
Andy Hill IF Sheldon Jr.
Ethan Trachtenberg IF South Eugene Sr.
D.J. Titus OF South Medford Sr.
Travis Rooke-Ley OF South Eugene Sr.
Tyler Martell OF Sheldon Sr.
Jordan Bostwick OF North Medford Sr.
David Chaldu 1B Grants Pass Sr.
Kaleb Carter UT Sheldon Sr.
Peter Klingman, P, South Eugene, Jr.; Johnny Farrington, IF, Roseburg, So.; Mitchell Huff, OF, Roseburg, So.; Gus Craig, OF, South Eugene, Fr.; Peter Jaeger, OF, Sheldon, Sr.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com