South pulls off sweep
South Medford had been looking forward to its Southwest Conference baseball doubleheader against Roseburg all last week before it was postponed by rain Saturday.
When the skies cleared Monday, the Panthers made the wait worth it as they put it all together to sweep the Indians, 10-0 in five innings and 6-3, in a matchup of SWC leaders at Harry & David Field.
South Medford (7-3, 4-0 SWC) combined for 15 hits and played error-free baseball behind starting pitchers Brandon Letendre and Ricky Boortz to move alone atop the league standings with the sweep.
“It’s a huge two wins for us and hopefully it will set the tone as we go into the rest of our league season,” said South Medford head coach Ray Smith, whose team has won 12 of the last 14 meetings with Roseburg (7-3, 3-2).
“I can’t say enough about our pitching,” added the coach. “Brandon and Ricky really put us in a situation where we could win, and our hitters came through when we needed to.”
Leading that hit parade, as usual, was South Medford center fielder Jacob Melton, who went 6-for-7 with five runs and three RBIs in the doubleheader. Melton had two doubles in the first game and a two-run triple in Game 2, where he also crushed his fourth home run of the season.
“It was a great team performance, we all played well together,” said Melton. “We’ve all been playing together since we were really young and it feels good to finally come out and beat a good team like Roseburg.”
“I was hitting pretty good today but it really helps when my teammates are hitting the ball, too,” he added. “That just kind of sets a groove for everyone because it’s not a one-man show, it’s everyone contributing.”
For fellow senior Jack Thompson, his contributions were especially felt in the first game with a two-strike RBI single in the first inning as South Medford built an early 4-0 cushion. Thompson went on to hit a two-run home run in the opener that broke the game open and allowed the Panthers to go on to the mercy rule victory.
Surprisingly, those were the first RBIs of the season for Thompson, an all-Southwest Conference returner who knew that statistic all too well heading into Monday’s games.
“I made some adjustments and I was just happy to start hitting the ball,” said Thompson, who was 2-for-2 with two runs and three RBIs in Game 1. “I knew my timing was on, it was just my hands were dropping a little low, so I was glad to start actually being able to contribute.”
His first home run of the season was a liner toward the scoreboard in left field that just carried the fence against Roseburg starter Zack Mandera.
“It didn’t feel too great off the bat,” said a still-surprised Thompson. “I was hoping it was going to drop in front of the outfielder. I saw him put his head down so I put my head down and kept running and then (first base coach Scott Carle) told me it was out, and that felt pretty good.”
South Medford’s Daniel Shenk drove in runs in the first and fourth innings and Zac Ankeny joined him with two RBIs in the opener, with Jaalen Owens and Jaylin Parnell also driving in runs after Roseburg uncharacteristically left the door open with four errors in Game 1.
“We didn’t throw it or pitch it as well as we had hoped today,” said Roseburg head coach Troy Thompson, “but they did a good job of putting the ball in play and forced a lot of things to happen. Hats off to South Medford. They did a good job all day of doing that and they played error-free.”
Letendre tossed a four-hit shutout to move his record to 3-1, striking out four with no walks.
Boortz picked up in Game 2 where the senior left off by throwing five shutout innings before the Indians finally broke through to close the gap to 5-3 in the sixth inning. Boortz allowed five hits with one strikeout, two hit batters and three walks — all coming within the final eight batters faced.
“They did phenomenal,” said Jack Thompson, who was their catcher in both games. “Brandon in the first game located his pitches well and had a good fastball-slider combination. Ricky in the second game, I don’t think I’d ever seen him so dialed in to start. He put us in a good position to win, so they both had great games for us.”
Melton finally broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning with a triple into the right-field corner to plate Letendre and Robby Carle, then came home on an errant relay throw toward third base for a 3-0 lead. Shenk added a double and later scored on an error to make it 4-0.
Melton then made it 5-0 in the fifth inning with what his father, South assistant coach Joe Melton, said might be the hardest hit ball from his son he’s ever seen as the ball easily cleared the right-field fence against Roseburg starter Cody Johnson.
“I think so, too, I hit that one pretty well,” Melton said sheepishly. “It was another curveball and I found the center of that one. It felt nice to finally hit one here (at Harry & David FIeld).”
Johnson came back to highlight a three-run rally by Roseburg in the sixth inning with his two-run triple, and the Indians had runners at first and third in the seventh when Melton got a flyout to right fielder Jaron Emerson and a game-ending double play by shortstop Ankeny and second baseman Owens for his first save.
Garrett Russell also had leadoff doubles in both games to pace Roseburg, but was thrown out at home in the opener for a momentum-setting play by Carle. The first baseman drifted into right field for an over-the-head catch and then fired a perfect strike to Thompson at home for an inning-ending double play.
Roseburg 000 00 — 0 4 4
South Medford 430 3x — 10 7 0
Mandera, Littlefield (4) and Jacks; Letendre and Thompson. W — Letendre (3-1). L — Mandera (4-1). 2B — R: Russell; SM: Melton 2. HR — SM: Thompson (1).
Roseburg 000 003 0 — 3 5 3
South Medford 004 011 x — 6 8 0
Co. Johnson and Jacks; Boortz, Melton (7) and Thompson. W — Boortz (2-0). L — Co. Johnson (0-1). S — Melton (1). 2B — R: Russell; SM: Shenk. 3B — R: Co. Johnson; SM: Melton. HR — SM: Melton (4).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry