Tornado survives in dramatic fashion

Top-ranked North Medford was on the brink of elimination in the second round of the Class 6A state softball playoffs Wednesday.

Roseburg pushed across two runs in the first inning off undefeated pitcher Maryssa Becker and Indian junior hurler Makina Akers had the Black Tornado blanked through five.

But North Medford capitalized on some Roseburg defensive lapses and registered its 21st straight win with a 3-2 victory in nine innings at the Black Tornado field.

"We handled Roseburg pretty good during the season," said North Medford coach Mike Mayben. "We knew we weren't going to have a lopsided win. It's hard to beat a team four times."

The Black Tornado (26-1) will host Pacific Conference runner-up Forest Grove, a 4-0 second-round winner over Jesuit, on Friday. The Vikings (21-7) come to Medford with a seven-game winning streak of their own.

The North Medford winning rally began innocently enough when Joci Ellis singled up the middle with nobody on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. With Akers trying to keep the ball away, Becker hit a hard ground single to right field. When Roseburg outfielder Hailey Averett's throw came up the line between third and home, Ellis scored all the way from first on the error.

"It was clear enough for Joci to see the throw and there was nobody near the ball," said Mayben. "That was a pretty exciting moment."

The Black Tornado also took advantage of Roseburg errors to score its first two runs.

In the sixth, Becker doubled and cut the deficit to 2-1 when Michelle Draper's fading line drive popped out of the glove of Indian left fielder Jessa Perkinson.

Then Grace Jovanovic tallied the tying run in the bottom of the seventh. Jovanovic drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a ground out and scored when Ellis' hard grounder up the middle went off the glove of shortstop Megan Larkin.

"They made all the plays earlier," said Mayben. "Late in the game the pressure got to them and our base runners were very aggressive."

Becker recovered from a difficult start when the Indians collected two of their three hits to go with a hit batter to score both runs. Jacey Conklin delivered a two-out, two-run single to give Roseburg the initial advantage.

Becker (23-0) responded by retiring the next 15 batters in a row and finished with 14 strikeouts.

"From that point on, (Becker) saw no more than four hitters in any inning," said Mayben, whose team last won the state championship in 2009. "She's a great leader and showed incredible composure.

"For teams to win state, you have to get some good bounces and get a little lucky sometimes."

The Black Tornado got both against the Indians.

Roseburg 200 000 000 — 2 3 4

North Medford 000 001 101 — 3 5 0

Akers and Conklin; Becker and Williamson. W — Becker (23-0). L — Akers. 2B — NM: Becker.

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