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North explodes in sixth inning to clinch top seed.

Byline: STEVE MIMS The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Getting runners on base wasn't a problem through five innings for North Eugene, it was getting them home that was the issue.

That suddenly changed in the sixth inning, when the Highlanders sent 13 batters to the plate and scored nine runs to rally for a 12-9 victory over Thurston in Midwestern League baseball Friday afternoon at Thurston High School.

The victory clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the Highlanders (12-2), who have assured themselves of at least a share of the league title. The Highlanders can win the title outright with a win in one of their final two games or a loss by Sheldon (10-4).

North stranded seven runners through the first five innings and trailed 4-2 before getting six hits in the nine-run sixth inning, the biggest of which was a grand slam by James Mannion.

"I think our guys showed a lot of maturity, which comes from having played a lot of baseball," North Eugene coach Corey Nicholsen said. "Sooner or later, they believed we would score some runs. They hung in there.

Kellen Hobie hit a one-out single to start the sixth-inning rally, and A.J. Norris was walked and Austin Brushett was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Travis Nance followed with a long single to right field that scored two runs and tied the game 4-4.

Scott Nelson followed with an infield single to load the bases, and Zach Bird walked to bring home the go-ahead run. Mannion followed with his blast to left field that came on a full count.

"I knew he wasn't going to walk me because that would bring home a run, so I just thought, `Here's my pitch,' ' Mannion said. "I had struggled in my first few at-bats and had only hit one ball hard, so I was just trying to hit the ball."

Norris later added a two-run single to put the Highlanders ahead 11-4.

Thurston trailed 12-5 entering the bottom of the seventh but batted through the lineup and scored four runs. The Colts ended up getting the potential tying run to the plate before Nelson induced a fly out to end the game.

Nelson was 4-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored, and he pitched the final two innings in relief of Bird, who earned the victory. The Highlanders are now 6-0 since Nelson joined the lineup after missing the first half of the season with a broken finger, and Nelson has three home runs in that span.

"Scott is swinging the bat well and helping us on the mound," Nicholsen said. "It's hard to believe he was out six weeks. He brings a lot of confidence to the team."

Brushett, Hobie and Kyle Boettger had two hits apiece for the Highlanders.

Shaun Davis was 3-for-4 with two runs scored for Thurston (9-5), while Matt Phelps, Cole Smith and Brian Barley added two hits apiece for the Colts.

Churchill 14, Springfield 7

SPRINGFIELD - A.J. Evanko went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Joseph Reyger added two hits and three RBIs as the Lancers defeated the Millers.

Corey Kent was 3-for-5 with a double to round out Churchill's 11-hit attack. Randy Berger sparked Springfield with a pair of RBIs.

Sheldon 8, North Bend 6

NORTH BEND - The Irish rallied with three runs in the top of the seventh inning to remain in second place.

Tyler Brown doubled to start the seventh-inning surge, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Jeff Dye followed with a two-run single that gave Sheldon a 7-6 lead, and Jon Powell later grounded into a fielder's choice that plated another run.

Boo Christenson was 3-for-4 for the Bulldogs, while Geoff Pape was 2-for-3 with a three-run home run.

Willamette 10, Marshfield 3

COOS BAY - Matt Lake went 2-for-5 with three RBIs to lead the Wolverines past the Pirates.

Justin Montgomery also had two hits, including a double, for Willamette. The Wolverines scored three runs in the third to take a 4-2 lead and later added six runs in the fifth inning.

Jeff Euhus went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI for Marshfield.

Far West League

South Umpqua 8, Douglas 5

MYRTLE CREEK - Ryan Savage, Dave McElmurry and Jason Stevenson had two hits apiece to lead the Lancers past the Trojans.

Brady Bumgarner drove in Savage to tie the game 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning, and McElmurry drove home Savage to give South Umpqua the lead. Stevenson, who earned the victory in relief, added a two-run single later in the sixth.

Brookings 11, Siuslaw 6

FLORENCE - B.J. Whirry was 2-for-3 with a home run to lead the Bruins past the Vikings.

Cody McLennon struck out eight in a complete game for Brookings, and Mark Blagden added a three-run double in the second inning. Deric Box was 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI to lead Siuslaw.

Val-Co League

Taft 13, Waldport 3

WALDPORT - Fearn Woosley was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Matt Salmons had two hits and scored twice to lead the Tigers over the Irish.

Kyle Smallwood paced Waldport with two hits, two runs scored and three stolen bases.

CAPTION(S):

THOMAS BOYD / The Register-Guard North Eugene's Scott Nelson (right), on his way to the dugout after scoring in the third inning, is greeted by teammate Travis Nance.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 4, 2002
Words:893
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