Forest Grove ends its season with a loss to No. 1 ranked North Medford

Forest Grove gave top-ranked North Medford one of its stiffest tests of the season last Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state softball playoffs, but after 11 innings of intense drama, the Lady Vikings came out on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.

'They're a very, very good team,' said Forest Grove coach Trevor Tusow. 'We knew it would be tough going down there. We just kind of ran out of steam at the end.'

North Medford (27-1) won the game on an RBI groundout in the bottom of the 11th inning, but not before being pushed to the very brink by the visiting Lady Vikings, who turned in one of their best performances of the season against a team that has won 22 straight games, outscored its opponents 193-16, and spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the state.

'The girls are very proud of the season they had,' Tusow said. 'I told them after the game that nobody wants to lose, but if you're going to lose in the playoffs, there's no shame in losing to the best team in the state, on their home field, in extra innings.

'It was tough, but the girls worked really hard this year and they left it all out on the field. We had 14 players who left everything they had out there.'

Forest Grove (21-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on Karla Broderson's one-out RBI double that scored Allison Thorud from first base. That put all the pressure on the Black Tornado, which hadn't lost a game since falling 3-1 to Southridge on March 26 at a spring break tournament.

North Medford finally equalized in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single and a stolen base from Jocilynn Ellis. She came home with the tying run on Kelsie Bartley's sacrifice fly with one out.

That sent the game into extra innings, and Forest Grove showed remarkable resiliency to keep the score tied at 1-1. Twice North Medford put runners on second and third with no outs, but Forest Grove pitcher Marissa Reichard worked out of both jams.

In the bottom of the ninth, Forest Grove got the first out of the inning on a rundown between third base and home, followed by back-to-back strikeouts from Reichard to keep North Medford off the scoreboard. Facing the same situation an inning later, Reichard struck out two straight batters before inducing an inning-ending pop up.

'It was a tense few innings,' Tusow said. 'They put a lot of pressure on us in extra innings, but we just kept battling.'

North Medford finally put the Vikings away in the bottom of the 11th. With international tiebreaker rules in effect and a runner starting on second base, the Black Tornado advanced her to third with a sacrifice bunt, then won the game with a ground ball deep in the hole between first and second base.

'It was just a little bit too far to her glove side, and by the time she got to the ball it was too late to make a play at home,' Tusow said. 'It was the one spot where it was really tough to defend against the runner coming home. I'd much rather lose on a play like that than on a walk or an error, but it was still tough.'

Reichard capped a magnificent senior season by pitching 10 2/3 innings, striking out 14 batters while allowing only five hits. That performance came on the heels of a 16-strikeout no-hitter against Jesuit in the second round of the playoffs last Wednesday, a game the Lady Vikings won 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.

In that game, Forest Grove jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a base hit by Reichard and an RBI single by Natalie Sydenstricker. The Lady Viks tacked on two more runs in the third when Jorie Gronseth led off with a single and scored on Sydenstricker's double. Taylor Schmitt made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly later in the inning.

Reichard gave herself a little extra breathing room in the fifth inning, leading off with a triple and score on an RBI single by Gronseth.

'We were really excited about how we started the game against Jesuit. Scoring first always helps our pitching and defense relax and get into a good rhythm,' Tusow said. 'We knew they were a really aggressive team at the plate and on the bases, so our goal was to try and limit the number of base runners, especially early.'

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