North Medford High softball team wins 16A title after big state tournament run
For the Black Tornado Fastpitch softball team, it was never about talent, just putting it all together.
Last spring high school season, the North Medford High girls couldn’t find the right rhythm and ended up tied for fourth in the Southwest Conference before a second-round exit in the state playoffs in the Class 6A.
With most of the same faces competing this summer, led by incoming senior Samara Miles and junior Gabbi Urban, it’s been a completely different story.
Black Tornado Fastpitch recently put an exclamation point on a stellar summer season, rebounding from an undefeated run in the 16-and-under state B tournament to another unblemished effort to claim the U.S. championship of Softball 16A Western Nationals.
“Honestly, I knew the talent was there, it was just a matter of it coming together and knowing they can play at that caliber and play together as a team,” said Black Tornado head coach Chris Campbell, the team of which he was 26-5 this year. summer after going 13-15 in the spring.
“They did a phenomenal job,” he added of an 8-0 run at Western Nationals this past weekend. “I was very proud of them for the successes they achieved, both individually and as a team. A lot of kids have put in a lot of work this summer.”
Campbell called his team’s final tournament of the season a “landmark” accomplishment, due in large part to how it all unfolded at Lithia & Driveway Fields here in Medford.
“We’ve come from behind in four of the last four games, which we haven’t shown as a trait,” the coach said. “Last season, once we went down, we stayed down. This summer they found out that we can be down and as long as we do the little things right and do the things we need to do right, we can still come back and win games”.
“It was a big milestone they hit,” Campbell added, “knowing that as long as we do all the little things as a team, we’re going to be really good.”
After dominating pool play in the 13-team event, the Black Tornado opened play with an 8-1 win over the Northwest Vandals and then followed it up with a 7-2 win over the Rebels.
The next game may have proved to be the most important, with the Black Tornado rallying from a 2-1 deficit to win 8-2 over South Medford’s Panther Fastpitch, which swept the North during its spring series of three games.
The Black Tornado carried that momentum into a 6-3 victory against the NorCal Rage of Redding, Calif., which put the local girls in the championship final, where they again defeated NorCal 6-2 after rebounding from the losers bracket to reach the final.
Urban spurred the Black Tornado throughout the tournament, but certainly during the championship game. The right-handed pitcher went the distance for her seventh win of the tournament — sophomore-to-be Malia Baker earned the Tornado’s other win — and it was her three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Rage that created a valuable cushion.
“Gabbi had a pretty complete total game for us,” Campbell said. “She was phenomenal.”
“It was a shot,” he added of the clutch homer. “The wind was blowing and she got it all.”
Urban ended up hitting .367 with three home runs, including a grand slam and another three-run blast, to help spark the offense as well.
Miles proved to be a nearly impossible outing during the Western Nationals, posting a team-best .643 batting average that included six doubles. That, of course, followed his 14-for-16 showing in the state tournament that included 10 extra-base hits.
“Samara can hit a ball wherever it’s thrown,” Campbell said, “she just knows what to do when she steps up to the plate. She’s very focused and looks for a drive pitch, but then if she gets down in a count , is very disciplined and will go with throws and hit them where they are thrown.
“It’s just one of those gifted batsmen that has definitely put in the time and effort,” he added. “She’s one of the first in training to keep working on her skill and one of the last to leave if she’s not happy with how she did.”
It’s a work ethic Campbell has marveled at for years.
“I remember seeing that kid when he was 4 years old with his dad in the batting cages with his older sisters,” Campbell said of Miles. “I’d hate to guess how many cuts this kid has made in his lifetime, but I’d put it at 10,000 or more, honestly. It’s great to see all his hard work pay off.”
The Black Tornado also received top efforts from a number of other players in one of the most complete efforts Campbell said he’s seen this summer.
Julia Thomas batted .461 with three doubles, Kaida DeHaven hit .400 and Araseli Guerrero hit a home run of her own to highlight the Black Tornado’s offensive production.
Defensively, center fielder Rhyan Hamlin was critical in bringing down batted balls in the gap with diving catches, while Guerrero seemed to be rushing every field to locate the softball from her shortstop position and catcher Sadie Hall led every game behind the plate at shortstop. hot conditions
“Everyone’s defensive effort was great,” Campbell said. “We were closing out rallies making big plays, it was fun to watch.”
“When you play out there in that kind of heat and that kind of temperature, to be able to go out there and perform the way they all did was amazing,” he added. “All the girls really stepped up and stepped it up a notch or two in terms of their effort and energy, and those kinds of things help.”
It certainly made things a little more manageable for Urban.
“As a pitcher, it’s a lot easier to come into the circle and know that if a ball is hit, somebody’s going to jump, somebody’s going to be throwing it, somebody’s going to make a play,” Campbell said. “Those kinds of things are huge for your confidence to know that I don’t have to be 100 percent dead every pitch. I need to be, but if something goes wrong or I lose a spot, that’s fine.”
After allowing a combined 10 runs in five bracket game contests, Urban didn’t miss much at Western Nationals.
“A lot of times it was kids just swinging a ball with two strikes and hitting a little blooper,” Campbell said of the rare blips. “I don’t think Gabbi had that many balls against her all week, she was just very accurate in what she was doing.”
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Black Tornado Fastpitch went a perfect 8-0 to claim the championship at the USA Softball 16A Western Nationals last weekend in Medford. Photo courtesy of Michael D. Davis / City of Medford
Sadie Hall rounds for home with Black Tornado teammate Rhyan Hamlin hot on her heels during the USA Softball 16A Western Nationals in Medford. Photo courtesy of Michael D. Davis / City of Medford
Rhyan Hamlin prepares for a pitch at the plate during last weekend’s USA Softball 16A Western Nationals in Medford. Photo courtesy of Michael D. Davis / City of Medford
Gabbi Urban is congratulated by Black Tornado head coach Chris Campbell after hitting a home run at Lithia & Driveway Fields. Photo courtesy of Michael D. Davis / City of Medford