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South shells Sheldon

Expectations are one thing but you still have to produce, and South Medford’s baseball team found itself with a prime opportunity to show the Southwest Conference it is ready to contend for the league title Tuesday against defending champion Sheldon at Harry & David Field.

Without blinking, the Panthers came through in fine fashion, scoring a 12-1 win in five innings to snap a two-game losing streak from last week’s tournament trip to Arizona.

Senior third baseman Clint Campbell was 2-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs, including a back-breaking, three-run double in the bottom of the third inning, and senior Brandon Letendre tossed a three-hitter with four strikeouts and no walks on 56 pitches to pace the Panthers (5-3, 2-0 SWC).

Sophomore shortstop Zac Ankeny was 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs and senior center fielder Jacob Melton 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI for a determined South squad.

“That was very important,” Campbell said of the win. “We went to Arizona and played decent but didn’t come away with some of the results we wanted, so it was important to get a big league win today.”

Coming off a doubleheader sweep of North Medford on Monday, Sheldon (6-4, 3-1) was a little ripe for the picking with limited pitching options but four errors combined with six walks was too much for Kellen Hobie’s crew to overcome against a South Medford team favored to edge Roseburg for this year’s SWC crown.

Sheldon opened the first inning with a leadoff double by Dylan Hansen and manufactured a run on a groundout by Bruce Nealon, but the rest of the contest was tilted considerably toward South Medford, which scored four runs in the bottom of the first on three hits and one error.

“They did a good job of answering right back,” said Hobie. “We tried to get on them early and then hold them but it just didn’t work out for us like we wanted today.”

“We’re better than what we showed and we’ll bounce back on Saturday (at South Eugene),” he added.

Melton led off the bottom of the first and quickly made his way to third base on a stolen base and wild pitch by Sheldon starter Christian Horn. With a full count, Campbell came through with an RBI single to set the tone for the way his day would go.

After Jaalen Owens struck out swinging but advanced safely following a dropped third strike and throwing error, Jaylin Parnell drew a one-out walk and both quickly came home on a ripped, two-run double to left-center by Ankeny.

“We got off to a pretty good start there in the first inning where we caught a couple breaks that kind of got us going and we were able to respond,” said Panthers head coach Ray Smith. “It was important for us to get those runs early because anytime you play Sheldon they’re just tough as heck. We probably caught them on an off day after a doubleheader yesterday, but we’ll take it.”

South Medford tacked on six more runs in the bottom of the third, highlighted by Campbell’s bases-clearing double, to build a 10-1 cushion. With two strikes, Campbell was able to slice a ball just inside the right-field line and watch safely as the bases emptied.

“I saw it and I was praying that it would land in between the lines and when it did I was like, ‘All right, that’s pretty sweet,’” said Campbell.

It was also sweet for Smith to see Campbell come through after the all-SWC infielder had seen his share of unlucky breaks to open the season.

“Clint’s come up in those situations a handful of times early in the season and he’s had good at-bats but he hasn’t gotten those results,” said Smith. “I’m happy for him that he was able to come through for us and get a couple big hits for RBIs. He’s always solid for us defensively but he had been struggling a little bit (hitting .125), so hopefully that will be that spark that lights him up and gets him going in a better way.”

Letendre didn’t need much help but gladly took it on this day. Hansen was the only Sheldon player to get as far as second base in five innings of solid work.

“Brandon did a great job on the mound for us,” said Smith. “He really competed and kept them off-balance and we made a couple good defensive plays behind him. I’m pretty pleased with the effort and the results.”

It doesn’t get any easier, however, as South Medford is set to host Roseburg (7-1, 3-0) for a key SWC doubleheader beginning at noon Saturday at Harry & David Field.

“We’re going to have to play better and hit the ball better; we left some guys on base at times,” said Smith. “But you can’t really complain about their effort today.”

Sheldon 100 00 — 1 3 4

South Medford 406 2x — 12 8 0

Horn, Wagers (3) and Lugo; Letendre and Thompson. W — Letendre (2-1). L — Horn. 2B — S: Hansen; SM: Ankeny 2, Campbell.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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South’s Jacob Melton gets a hit in the fourth inning. - Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
South’s Zac Ankeny gets a hit for a double in the first inning. - Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune