After surrendering a first-inning run, North Medford senior pitcher Rylan Austin responded by retiring 12 straight batters before the Reynolds Raiders erupted for their best offensive sequence in the Class 6A first-round state playoff game Monday.
Holding a 13-1 lead with two outs in the fifth, the Troutdale school out of the Mount Hood Conference put together three straight hits, including two triples, and extended the game by scoring three times.
Defending state champion North Medford wasn’t in jeopardy by any means, but it forced the senior pitcher to throw an additional inning before she took matters into her own hands and drove in the game-ending run to give the Black Tornado a 14-4 victory in six innings at North Medford High.
It was the 10th consecutive season North Medford has won an opening-round game, but it was the first for rookie head coach Chris Campbell.
North Medford (23-4) advances to the second round on Wednesday and will host a familiar opponent, Southwest Conference foe Sheldon (21-7), which defeated West Linn, 9-0.
Austin (23-3), who was the Black Tornado ace in its run to the title last year, allowed seven hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in a 77-pitch performance. Additionally, she collected three hits and three RBIs from the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
“Rylan was constantly around the plate,” said Campbell, who had been an assistant under Mike Mayben for the seven previous seasons. “She can move the ball around enough to get strikeouts when she needs them. She’ll never hurt you in the circle.”
When asked about Austin’s offensive prowess, Campbell quickly answered: “We have her in the three hole for a reason. Rylan can drive in some runs.”
Reynolds (11-17) began the game by nicking Austin for a first-inning run. Leadoff hitter Megan Convery beat out a grounder to shortstop Lauren Barry and, with two outs, Adia Messenger found an open space behind first base on a soft fly ball for an RBI single.
Austin was perfect from there before Maya Phillips rapped what appeared to be a meaningless single with two outs in the fifth. But the No. 9 hitter, Hailey Burmeister, smacked a sinking line drive that slipped past a diving Kylie Baker in center field for a triple. Convery followed with a shot over Baker’s outstretched glove for another triple and Kayley King connected for a solid single to right to force the game to continue.
“We were working the ball in-and-out and didn’t want anything to float across the plate,” said Austin. “(In the fifth inning) my ball wasn’t spinning as well as it had and they made some adjustments.
“I used my rise ball quite a bit,” added Austin. “I just wanted to get them to put the ball in play, knowing my defense will make the plays.”
North received good production at the top of the order from the Barry sisters, sophomore Lauren and senior Alex. Lauren Barry had three hits, five RBIs and scored two runs, including the game-ending tally, from the leadoff spot. Alex Barry added two hits and scored once.
“We weren’t expecting to be behind right out of the gate,” said the younger Barry. “Our team knows how to fight back. From one-to-nine, we’re confident everyone can get a base hit and be clutch.”
North’s offense produced 14 hits, and seven errors by Reynolds helped the Black Tornado cause.
“Errors have been our nemesis,” said Reynolds coach Melanie Pfeiffer, who has guided the Raiders into the state playoffs in three of her four years. “We were playing a little shakier than usual. We might have felt the pressure being in state.”
Pfeiffer was so impressed with North’s infield sequence prior to the game, that she declined to send her team out for drills.
“Their pre-game was mesmerizing,” said Pfeiffer. “They’re fundamentally super sound.”
Campbell wasn’t too concerned when Reynolds grabbed a 1-0 lead.
“That set the tone for us,” said Campbell, a 52-year-old freight broker and 1984 Grants Pass High graduate. “Everyone is going to give you their best shot. It is the playoffs.”
North responded by tying the game in its half of the first, adding four more in the second and blew the game open by sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs in the third to take a 12-1 lead.
Campbell credits Mayben with teaching him the some of the intricacies of the game and encouraging him to apply for the North head coaching job.
“When Mike stepped down he called and asked if I would be willing to put my hat in the ring,” said Campbell. “I’ve been on the pony express with Mike for a while. I’m just trying to keep this a winning program.”
By the look of things, Campbell is doing just that.
Reynolds 100 030 — 4 7 7
North Medford 147 101 — 14 14 0
Austin and Smalley; Burmeister, Messenger (3) and Hutchins. W — Austin (23-3). L — Burmeister. 2B — NM: Austin. 3B — R: Burmeister, Convery.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or email@example.com