South Medford junior Jacob Melton set the tone by clearing the fence on the third pitch he saw and the Panthers roared past Willamette from there, earning a Southwest Conference baseball sweep with a 7-2 win in the opener and 9-6 triumph in Game 2 at U.S. Cellular Community Park Saturday.
“It really does light a spark right there from that first at-bat when you get on top of them,” said South Medford head coach Ray Smith. “Without a doubt leadoff home runs are rare but it’s certainly a spark to the rest of the club.”
Melton added a second solo home run leading off the sixth inning in Game 1 to finish 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs as South Medford (15-9, 11-7 SWC) clinched third place in the SWC standings and an automatic berth in the Class 6A state playoffs.
“Our goal all season long was qualifying and earning that first-round home game,” said Smith. “I’m proud of the guys, we did what we have to do and now we go into that second season where we have to compete even more.”
Panthers senior Ethan Whitney was dominant on the mound in the opener, allowing one earned run and three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 90 pitches for the complete-game win.
“He was in command and that’s just what we expect from Ethan,” added Smith.
South Medford built a 5-0 lead in the nightcap, highlighted by consecutive home runs from Jaylin Parnell and Jack Thompson. Parnell supplied a two-run homer and then Thompson followed him with a solo shot of his own.
Melton finished 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs after smacking a pair of doubles in Game 2, while Thompson was 2-for-3 with one RBI.
Willamette (6-19, 1-17) scored four runs in the sixth to pull within 8-6 but the Panthers didn’t bend any further to keep the Wolverines at bay. Andrew Hefner and Tobin Thorn each had two hits in Game 2.
Rosebrook, Allen (6) and Thorn; Whitney and Thompson. W — Whitney (6-4). L — Rosebrook. 2B — W: Chesla. 3B — SM: Melton. HR — SM: Melton 2 (9).
Bracy, Chesla (4) and Thorn; Charlton, Carle (6) and Thompson. W — Charlton (1-0). L — Bracy. 2B — W: Curtis; SM: Melton 2. HR — SM: Thompson (1), Parnell (2).
SHELDON 11-5, GRANTS PASS 1-0: At Eugene, Sheldon clinched the Southwest Conference championship with the doubleheader sweep by improving to 14-4 in league play and 17-6 overall.
Grants Pass (13-13, 8-10 SWC) had an outside chance of tying for fourth place in the SWC with Roseburg, which would have earned a tiebreaker for the automatic playoff berth, but struggled to put together an offensive attack against the Irish.
THURSTON 7-9, ASHLAND 6-3: At Springfield, Ashland’s Shae Scott went 4-for-7 with three RBIs but the Grizzlies came up short in each game of the Midwestern League doubleheader.
In the opener, Scott hit a three-run triple in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 6-all for Ashland (13-11, 10-11 MWL). Thurston (18-8, 14-7) held Ashland scoreless the next two innings and added a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the extra-inning victory.
Thurston’s Preston Fisher went 3-for-6 with three RBIs and a home run in the twin bill.
Sanderson, E. McLennan (7) and N. McLennan; Stedman, Thoreson and Rodrigues. W — Toreson. L — Mclennan. 3B — A: Scott. HR — T: Fisher.
Tzadhil, Carroll (4) and N. McLennan; Howard, Ward (5), Morlon (7) and Rodrigues. W — Howard. L — Tzadhil. 3B — T: Crist, Decker, Stedman.
GRANTS PASS 1-11, SHELDON 0-0: At Grants Pass, Alyssa Etheridge allowed eight hits in a combined 13 scoreless innings as Grants Pass secured the Southwest Conference sweep.
Etheridge combined for nine strikeouts and two walks for the Cavers (17-8, 11-7 SWC), and also belted a two-run home run and three-run home run in the six-inning nightcap.
In the opener, Brooklyn Hurd singled with one out in the sixth inning and, after a sacrifice, scored on a single by Halleigh Noga for the deciding run against Sheldon (11-14, 8-10).
Jordan Kuykendall was 3-for-3 with two runs and one RBI in Game 2 for GP, while Hurd and Marissa Eilenberger each had two hits and Hailey Yount drove in two runs.
Leach and Neuman; Etheridge and Kuykendall. W — Etheridge. L — Leach. 2B — S: Morehead-Hutsell.
Leach and Neuman; Etheridge and Kuykendall. W — Etheridge. L — Leach. 2B — GP: Eilenberger, Noga. 3B — GP: Padgett. HR — GP: Etheridge 2.