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SOC teams open playoffs with twin bills at Miles Field

Albeit for different reasons, the last thing the Southern Oregon Conference's top two teams wanted to do was wait a week to play another baseball game.

South Medford has had an itch to continue what has already been a record-setting season, while North Medford's desire to right the ship after a disappointing loss in its SOC finale has reached an apex.

We're chomping at the bit waiting to be able to play again, says South Medford head coach Steve Antich.

Neither team will have to wait much longer as both Medford squads will play host to a Class 4A state-playoff doubleheader Monday at Miles Field.

Tenth-ranked North Medford opens the twin bill at — p.m. with a first-round game against Jesuit, with seventh-ranked South Medford taking on Beaverton at 4 p.m.

— We're pretty proud to just be a part of that, says Antich, whose Panthers will be making their first appearance in the state playoffs since 1999 and fourth in school history. It should be a big day for Medford baseball. Hopefully a lot of people come out who haven't had a chance before to watch us play.

North Medford head coach Brett Wolfe agrees, adding that such a setting can only benefit each program down the road.

It's great for Medford, he says. It'll promote the game and hopefully it will lead some young people to put on a glove and think about wanting to learn the game.

South (21-5, 17-4 SOC) takes a five-game winning streak into Monday's tilt, including a twin-bill sweep last Saturday that vaulted the Panthers over North for the school's first-ever baseball title.

The kids are pretty excited and have enjoyed the attention and the accomplishment, says Antich, but we've all just decided it's time to go out and keep this thing going on Monday.

Beaverton, the No. 4 seed out of the Metro League, will look to do the same after dominating Bend, 8-2, in Friday's subtournament round.

Senior shortstop Greg Laybourne blasted two home runs and junior David Johnson added another to support Alex Lilla's complete-game effort on the mound for the Beavers (14-8).

Seniors Mike Hale (second baseman), Nick Eggers (catcher) and Mike Nakashimada (outfield) also power a potent Beaverton lineup.

The Panthers had a run of three straight seasons from 1997-99 in which they made it to the state playoffs ' sporting a 2-3 record in that span ' but don't necessarily feel inexperienced with their current roster.

The nice thing is we have a lot of athletes, says Antich. We have soccer kids with state-championship experience and football guys who were in the state playoffs and basketball guys with that same kind of experience. Our kids have playoff experience, it's just in other sports.

Led by junior Logan Boyd's team-high .427 batting average, the Panthers enter the playoffs hitting .351 as a team. The right fielder also leads South with 27 runs, while junior Justin Meyer is hitting .400, junior Tyler Heil .358 and senior Andy Narus .357.

Senior Allen Smith sports a team-high 27 RBIs and three home runs for South and is hitting .333, while senior Corey O'Neill is hitting .325 with 24 RBIs and 24 runs.

The Panthers have had to take the good with the bad all season, however, with the most recent setback a broken collarbone suffered by pitcher/third baseman Matt Bryant in a May 11 win at Grants Pass. Bryant was hurt on a collision with Smith as each went for an infield pop-up.

It's definitely disappointing for Matt, says Antich. It just came out of nowhere and ended his high school experience.

JESUIT AT NORTH MEDFORD ' Monday's game marks the first meeting between the teams since 1998, when Jesuit beat North Medford 5-0 at Miles Field in the now defunct Asante Diamond Classic.

The Crusaders (20-6), last year's state runner-up and No. — seed out of the Metro, finished third in a Metro Conference topped by co-champions Westview (ranked No. — in the state) and Southridge (ranked No. 4).

Jesuit finished one game back in the standings with a 14-4 league record, and fared well against its counterparts by scoring 11-5 and 9-7 wins over Westview and a 14-5 win over Southridge on May 12.

Jesuit has averaged 9.6 runs per game entering the playoffs, with that number skewed slightly by the presence in the Metro League of Liberty. The first-year program suffered defeats of 25-5 and 18-0 against Jesuit, which has allowed 5.8 runs per game.

Still, the Crusaders' potential for big innings cannot be denied, with standout first baseman Casey Puterbaugh, a 6-foot-2 senior, leading a host of capable Jesuit hitters in the lineup.

We just have to go out and try to play good fundamental baseball, Wolfe says.

North (20-6, 16-5 SOC) got a taste of the Metro League earlier this year in a 5-2 loss to Southridge.

GRANTS PASS AT PENDLETON ' Although the teams haven't met in recent history, this matchup between No. 3-seeded Grants Pass (13-12, 11-10 SOC) and the Intermountain's No. 2 should still provide a hint of familiarity.

They're a team much like ourselves, GP head coach Stacy Morgan says. I think it'll be like looking in the mirror (Monday).

Pendleton (17-9, 10-4 IMC) is grounded by a solid defense and a collection of players who just seem to get the job done, according to head coach Steve Cary.

I don't know that we have any one thing that stands out, says the 10th-year coach. We're pretty decent in pitching and fielding and hitting. We've just been able to put them together to be fairly consistent.

Pendleton's top pitcher is right-hander Dusty Alberts, who boasts a 7-4 record and 3.00 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 63 innings.

Catcher Drew Van Cleave leads the team with a .430 batting average, 21 RBIs and seven homers.

ASHLAND AT REDMOND '

Thanks to the late-inning heroics Friday of Steve Jorgensen and Ben Dodds, Ashland gets a chance to shake up the playoffs a little more when the Grizzlies (15-11, 10-11 SOC) travel to face fifth-ranked Redmond on Monday.

Jorgensen belted a two-run HR in the bottom of the seventh against Dallas during Friday's subtournament round to cap a four-run rally.

With Ashland trailing 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth, Jorgensen supplied an RBI double to tie the game and then scored the winning run when Ben Dodds' hot shot ricocheted off Dallas' shortstop for an 11-9 triumph.

Redmond won the Intermountain Conference with a 12-2 league mark.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail