Griffin comes through in clutch again for South

The circumstances were a little different but the results were the same for South Medford's Austin Griffin on Friday at Harry & David Field.

With the Panthers down to their final out, Griffin came through with a game-winning single to rally his team for a 3-2 triumph over Roseburg in a well-played Southern Oregon Hybrid contest that featured an emotional ending in more ways than just one.

Griffin plated the winning run from third base Tuesday against North Medford with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning but stepped to the plate with two outs and runners at first and second this time around.

After the center fielder fell behind 0-1 to Roseburg standout Jared Priestley, Panthers head coach Ray Smith put both runners in motion on the next pitch and Griffin responded with a liner to center field to plate Kirk Eastman, who had drawn a one-out walk to spark the rally.

"Ray put the hit-and-run on and it kinda took the pressure off of me so I think that was a good call," said Griffin. "Runners were moving and all I had to do was get the ball out of the infield and we won the game, and that's what happened luckily."

The two-out RBI single was Griffin's second of the game, with his third-inning effort plating Taren Bradd to tie the game at 1-all. Griffin also scored another tying run in the sixth after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and eventually scoring on an RBI single by Nate Namanny, who was 2-for-3 overall.

"That's our whole season; every league game we've seemed to play has been right down to the wire," said Smith, whose squad improved to 9-6 overall and 5-3 in SOH play. "Once again we found a way. Auggie came through, again, and I'm very proud of that young man."

After Eastman's one-out walk, Bradd put down a nice sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Priestley but thrown into the ground for a one-hopper that the first base umpire ruled had pulled first baseman Mike Morin off the bag in order to make the stop. Jack Walker, batting for injured second baseman Bryson Lake, was turned back by a two-strike big-breaking curveball to leave Griffin as South's last hope.

"At that point I knew that I had to do something so I put the hit-and-run on," said Smith. "I put it on to put (Eastman and Bradd) in motion and I know Austin is very good at that and it makes him focus at the plate and he came through again."

Such a maneuver, however, might have been the second-best coaching decision made by Smith during Friday's game. In the first inning, Smith successfully challenged the legality of a bat that had just been used for a two-run double by Micah Audiss, wiping the hit and runs off the books in a move that didn't sit well with Roseburg, especially head coach Troy Thompson or first base coach Richie Charles.

After Priestley was returned to second base and Darin Nelson to first following the umpire's ruling, Roseburg standout Josh Graham grounded into an unassisted inning-ending double play turned by Bradd at third base.

Failing to produce any runs when Roseburg (10-4, 6-2 SOH) believed it had starter Sean Pearson on the ropes only served to fuel the fire for the Indian coaches, who gave the umpires an earful for a couple more innings before finally taking the occasion in the post-game handshake line to confront Smith and assistant coaches Dave Siders, Mark Winner and Jeremy Frantz.

For several minutes Thompson and Smith calmly talked matters out on one section of the infield and the assistants exchanged words in another but there was nothing too heated. The only threat, other than the message being sent by such a display, came in the form of Charles telling the South crew that they would not be able to use Roseburg's batting cages again whenever they came to town.

No player from either team was involved in any of the discussions, with the teams left to watch everything unfold from their respective corners of the outfield.

Afterwards, Thompson did not want to elaborate on the matter other than, "One of our players used a bat that's on a list that says it's illegal. That's it. That's all I'm saying."

"It was a good ballgame," Thompson added. "Their pitcher did a nice job. Jared Priestley was very good, as well, for us. It was a well-played game."

A similar illegal bat situation popped up last Thursday against Crater but Smith didn't catch it until too late. The Comets' Bryce Crawford blasted a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first and Frantz noticed that the bat wasn't on the approved list for this season, with a big change made in that area from last year to this one in relation to composite bats. Smith, however, was slow on the draw and couldn't get his challenge in before the next pitch was put in motion.

In that case, Smith immediately informed Crater head coach Jay Campbell of the illegal bat and said it would be challenged if it came out again. The bat did come out later, Smith challenged right away and the umpires ruled accordingly and took it out of play.

When it happened again Friday, Frantz yelled from the dugout to get Smith's attention but Audiss blasted the first pitch offered up by Pearson.

"I'm over here keeping charts and calling defensive plays and I've got an assistant coach who works at Cascade Athletic and sells those bats every day and tells me it's an illegal bat," said Smith. "I get the list out, which I keep in my pocket all the time, and sure enough he's right. I've basically got four seconds from the time he steps into the box to react and he drills the first pitch for a double in the gap. I don't have a chance to approach Troy but I can't let the hit go, it's a two-run double with an illegal bat. I think any coach in that situation is going to do what's best for his team."

"If Micah swings through that ball or he pops up or he hits into a double play, I'm still going up there and telling them that's an illegal bat," added the coach. "Circumstance didn't work out for them, it worked out for us, it could've been any way, shape or form, but it was an illegal bat, simple as that. Obviously they're very upset, possibly rightfully so, but what I tell my kids is we play by the rules. If you don't have a bat on this list, we don't bring it in the dugout."

Such an issue is typically taken care of during a pregame check of equipment by umpires but those checks aren't always made at each game. Coaches are asked prior to games by the umpires if their team is legally and properly equipped but there was talk outside Roseburg's dugout that insinuated that this was the first such use of the bat in question by Audiss and it was doubtful Thompson had any knowledge of the bat until the challenge.

Beyond the bat hubbub, Friday's game between the top two SOH teams was smartly played by both teams. The Panthers turned a pair of inning-ending double plays and Griffin made a key diving catch in center field.

Another dive didn't turn out quite so well for South, however, when Lake and Kanin Campbell tried to track down a sixth-inning pop fly down the right field line by Cody Watkins. Both players went airborne for the potential third out of the inning, with Lake coming up lame. The senior, who missed the bulk of last season with a shoulder injury, suffered two broken bones in his left wrist and is out for the season, according to Smith. Lake entered the contest with a 10-game hitting streak and was batting a team-best .432 in the leadoff spot.

Roseburg 001 001 0 — 2 5 1

South Medford 001 001 1 — 3 5 0

Priestley and Graham; Pearson and Phillips. W — Pearson (2-1). L — Priestley (4-2).

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

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