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Shoe fits in Panther win

Dylan Albertson didn't just walk in someone else's shoes on Tuesday.

He hit a home run in them.

Albertson crushed a solo home run in the fourth inning and pounded a key two-run double in the fifth to elevate the South Medford baseball team to a rain-shortened 5-3 victory over South Eugene at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Like everyone else, Albertson had to pull off his metal cleats and go shoe searching after the Southwest Conference opener was moved from Harry & David Field to the all-weather artificial turf. Wearing an assistant coach's sneakers, the senior shortstop helped the Panthers rally from a 3-0 deficit.

"We were all pretty much excited because we hadn't played on turf yet and we didn't want to deal with the mud and the standing water," Albertson said. "We went straight from (Harry & David Field) to the turf, so we had to borrow shoes from coaches and work with what we had."

After a soggy 30-minute delay, the contest was called in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. If five innings have been played and the score is not tied, the game is declared an official contest, according to OSAA rules. South Medford led 5-3 at the time.

Albertson, whose solo shot cut the Axemen's advantage to two runs, belted a rip-roaring double up the middle in the fifth inning that drove in Bryson Lake and Josh Havird and gave the Panthers the permanent lead. Kyle Seutter's RBI double one batter later provided an insurance run, which — it turns out — South Medford didn't need.

"I knew we needed something to start us up, so I was looking for a big hit," Albertson said. "We sometimes struggle to get things started off and we need something to ignite us, something to put a fire underneath everybody. I was happy to deliver."

During the rain-soaked wait, officials and spectators huddled underneath large tarps. Meanwhile, the Panthers (7-3, 1-0 SWC) crammed into the men's restroom and waited for the rain to pass. Time played on the opposite team for South Eugene (6-5, 0-1). Crestfallen, head coach Chris Vermeer was one of the last to leave the field.

"If that is the ruling, then so be it," Vermeer said. "But we lost the game. We were ahead most of the game and had chances and we didn't finish. They won the game fair and square."

Added South Medford head coach Ray Smith: "It's unfortunate the weather played a role in today's game and South Eugene competed well. We don't make up the rules, we just follow them."

Albertson's home run was his third of the year. He finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs on Tuesday. Seutter went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI and Nate Namanny added a run-scoring single in the bottom of the fourth inning.

"He's come through for us a few times," Smith said of Albertson. "He is the player you want in those situations. Fortunately for us he was able to help win the game with a few swings."

Havird (1-0) earned his first decision of the year, pitching a complete-game five-hitter with four strikeouts and three walks. The junior survived a rough third inning, when the Axemen scored on a wild pitch and passed ball.

"Josh is a heck of a competitor when the pressure is on," Smith said. "You can count on him to keep his head on and get his job done."

Joe Schindler, who finished 3-for-3, hit an RBI single in the fourth to drive South Eugene's lead to 3-0.

Carlos Larson took the loss after giving up eight hits and three walks.

The victory's value — like any other in the treacherous SWC — can't be overstated, Albertson said.

"Coach told us it would be a big game," he said. "If we don't win this one, you have to scrounge to get on top again. I'm hoping we don't get too cocky and that we can stay out there and do what we need to do."

South Eugene 002 10 — 3 5 3 South Medford 000 23 — 5 8 1

Larson and Giland; Havird and Fitzsimmons. 2B — SE: Heeszel; SM: D. Albertson, Seutter; HR — SM: D. Albertson (3).

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail djones@mailtribune.com

South Medford's Dylan Albertson belts a solo home run in the fourth inning during Tuesday's SWC contest. - Larry Stauth Jr.