North Medford’s Matt Maurer slides into third base during the Black Tornado's 12-4 victory over South Medford on Tuesday at Harry and David Field. - Jamie Lusch

Never a doubt for Tornado

The beginning of Tuesday's baseball game between Southwest Conference-leading North Medford and South Medford couldn't have gone any better for the Black Tornado or any worse for the Panthers.

North Medford opened a 5-0 lead to start the game, batting the entire lineup despite managing only two hits, and eventually led 12-0 before the Panthers rallied to trim the final deficit to 12-4 in a battle of SWC unbeatens.

"It was totally uncharacteristic of how this team has played this year and it couldn't have happened at a worse time," said South Medford coach Tom Britton. "We fell off the hill and it seemed like we were climbing the rest of the day."

South Medford starting pitcher Max Britton failed to get an out and was relieved after five batters when he walked three and hit another to go with a bunt single by Chris Bradshaw. The senior right-hander entered Tuesday's contest with a 4-0 record and 1.69 ERA, but has now allowed eight runs in one inning of work over his last two outings.

"Our pitching just really let us down," said coach Britton, who is also Max's father. "I'm real disappointed that we didn't throw strikes."

For North Medford, it was just another day at the ballpark as the Black Tornado (15-1, 4-0 SWC) found a way to score a dozen runs on only five hits.

"Baseball's a game that you can hit the ball right on the nose and get nothing for it, so we take what we can get," said North Medford coach Brett Wolfe. "We just try to play hard and execute and go from there."

Each team committed three errors, but South Medford's seven walks and two hit batters allowed North to open strong and then tack on six more runs in the fifth inning.

"I think that's the third game in a row we've scored four runs right off the bat, and I think that sends the biggest message when you can jump on a team early," said North senior Hayden Wolfe, whose team led Roseburg 4-0 and Grants Pass 4-0 in recent games. "It takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher."

That pitcher happened to be Wolfe himself, and he rose to the occasion by pitching four innings of no-hit baseball before Ryan Wellock came off the bench for South to wreck it in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI double.

Despite struggling with his curveball, Wolfe pitched 41/3 innings and allowed three runs on three hits with four walks and two hit batters. He took a 12-0 lead into the fifth before the Panthers (10-6, 3-1) rallied with three runs to extend the game.

"I missed my spots a few times and I let my emotions get to me a little bit because I really wanted it," the left-hander said of losing the no-hitter and a shortened game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth.

"I had a really good defense behind me," Wolfe added. "They came through pretty big and I was able to keep it low for the most part."

In contrast, Max Britton threw six straight balls before Bradshaw laid down his drag-bunt single. He went 3-0 to Cody James before finally getting a strike called, but walked him on the next pitch. After hitting Matt Maurer to plate the first run in Wolfe, Colin Sowers drew an RBI walk to signal the end of Britton's turn on the mound.

Isaac Rolie took over and gave up a sacrifice fly to Brady Shipley and a two-run single to Mark Cokenour before getting out of the inning. Rolie went on to pitch four innings, allowing three hits with two walks.

North plated another run in the third after a leadoff single by Sowers, who advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cokenour.

Rolie walked the first two batters in the fifth before giving way to Jordan Lundgren, who was South's pitching star on Saturday but also failed to record an out Tuesday. Lundgren walked Sowers to load the bases and Shipley slapped a two-run single up the middle. Another walk set the table for a run to score on Britton's error at third base on a grounder by Cory Haggans.

Jordan Ellis was hit by a pitch to plate another run before Brandon Dollarhide was summoned to the mound and effectively sat the Tornado down 1-2-3 over the final three innings.

After Wellock plated Bret Reordan to give South hope, Bo Walker came through with a clutch two-run single to right field to secure more time on the field.

Interestingly, North Medford coach Brett Wolfe was all for playing more baseball at that point, especially since it gave him more time to see senior reliever Will Allbright in action.

"Actually it was a blessing because Will Allbright's a good pitcher and we haven't been able to get him in," said coach Wolfe. "We need him big down the stretch. We're not going to have pitchers complete every game. That's our goal, but Will needed to pitch."

The hit allowed Walker to extend his streak of getting at least one hit in all 15 games he's played.

"He's been steady for us all year long," Tom Britton said of shortstop Walker.

South scored its only other run in the seventh after Walker reached on a throwing error by Cokenour and scored on a ground out by Lundgren.

North Medford 501 060 0 — 12 5 3

South Medford 000 030 1 — 4 4 3

Wolfe, Allbright (5) and Sowers; Britton, Rolie (1), Lundgren (5), Dollarhide (5) and Reordan. W — Wolfe (4-0). L — Britton (4-1). 2B — SM: Wellock. 3B — NM: James.

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

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