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PREP ROUNDUP: South closes in on potential title

Panthers sweep Axe in SWC softball for 11th straight win

The task is still at hand but South Medford’s softball team moved two steps closer Saturday to something most in the program haven’t seen in their lifetime: A conference championship.

With a pair of five-inning victories over South Eugene, 14-0 and 16-1 in games played at Grants Pass High, the Panthers pushed their winning streak to 11 games and, more importantly, upheld a one-game lead on Sheldon in the Southwest Conference title chase.

South Medford (20-3, 11-1 SWC) shared its last conference title with North Medford in 2003, and the Panthers were runner-up in 2017.

“They’re really playing well together,” said South Medford head coach Shane Ramsay of his squad. “We have a lot of unselfish kids that are willing to put their team first. That’s really paying off and they’re really enjoying themselves out there.”

There was plenty for the Panthers (20-3, 11-1 SWC) to enjoy Saturday despite some rain in Game 1 and the need to borrow the field of SWC mate Grants Pass, which was playing on the road in Roseburg.

South Medford freshman pitcher Jordan Knutson picked up the win inside the circle in each game, allowing only two hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in the opener and just three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in Game 2.

“Jordan pitched well,” said Ramsay, “and she actually hit the ball really well today, too. She had four doubles on the day, two in each game.”

Knutson finished 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs in the opener and 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the nightcap against South Eugene (3-18, 0-12).

The Panthers proved to be prolific on offense throughout the day, posting 13 hits in Game 1 and 25 over the twin bill, with all but one starter getting a hit in each game.

“The girls all over the lineup have been contributing at different times,” Ramsay said of South Medford’s balanced attack. “There’s been somebody coming through in the clutch at different times.”

Sophomore Kaycee Hudson enjoyed a perfect day at the plate, going 3-for-3 in each game and scoring a combined six runs with two RBIs. June Woster combined to go 3-for-5 with five runs and one RBI, while fellow junior Kirsten Morgan finished 2-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs.

Sophomore Nicole Ledendecker drove in two runs and freshman Shelby Hillyer added two hits and two runs in the opener, while senior Maddy Fullenwider went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs in Game 2. Sophomore Brianna Turrey and freshman Maleyah Thoele also drove in two runs apiece in the nightcap.

South Medford also played flawless on the defensive end with no errors committed in either contest.

“We’ve been playing really well defensively and the pitching’s been doing a great job, which helps the defense,” said Ramsay. “The balls don’t get hit as hard so they’re a lot easier to play is honestly what it comes down to most of the time.”

As good as things are going for the Panthers, the road doesn’t get any easier if they’re to claim their first conference crown in 19 years.

South Medford closes its SWC slate with a game at Roseburg (10-12, 6-6) on Tuesday and a doubleheader next Saturday at Grants Pass (10-13, 6-6). The Indians and Cavers are tied for third in the SWC.

“The next three games are going to be tough with Roseburg and the doubleheader against Grants Pass,” said Ramsay. “We’ve just got to bear down and keep working hard and keep competing.”

“Roseburg just swept GP so they’re on a roll and they’re going to be tough, especially at home up there,” he added. “That’s going to be a tough game right away.”

Helping keep the Panthers in check, said Ramsay, is a reminder of a stretch between April 2-5 when they had their seven-game winning streak halted by Canby in a 2-1 setback and wound up losing twice overall in that span (4-3 to Crater).

“We had that at the beginning of the season,” Ramsay said of his team feeling a little overconfident early on, “and then we lost a couple games and we refocused and they’re just humble and competing in every game now. I remind them of that every day, it helps. Just as soon as you think you’re good, you’re doomed.”

FIRST GAME

South Eugene00000—023

South Medford1931x—14130

Langan-Forbes and Ransford; Knutson and Hillyer. W — Knutson. L — Langan-Forbes. 2B — SM: Ledendeker, Hudson, Knutson 2.

SECOND GAME

South Eugene01000—132

South Medford5290x—16120

Langan-Forbes and Ransford; Knutson and Ledendecker. W — Knutson. L — Langan-Forbes. 2B — SM: Fullenwider, Hudson, Knutson. 3B — SM: Thoele, Hudson.

SHELDON 9-3, NORTH MEDFORD 5-1: At Eugene, North Medford outhit Sheldon 11-10 in Game 1 but did not get rewarded in the win column, and the No. 9-ranked Irish limited the Black Tornado to three hits in a low-scoring nightcap as North dropped its fifth straight SWC game.

Samara Miles, Presley Lawton,Gabbi Urban and Alyssa Hartzheim each had two hits in the opener for the Black Tornado (9-13, 3-9 SWC), which trailed Sheldon (18-5, 10-2) 4-0 after the first inning. Lawton and Hartzheim each drove in a run in Game 1.

In Game 2, Urban was the tough-luck loser, allowing just five hits and two earned runs while striking out five. She also drove in North’s lone run of the game in the top of the first.

FIRST GAME

North Medford0001040—5113

Sheldon400050x—9102

Hartzheim and Lawton; Blanchette, Burnham (6) and Pappas. W — Blanchette. L — Hartzheim. 2B — NM: Hartzheim, Urban. 3B — NM: Miles. HR — S: Walker.

SECOND GAME

North Medford1000000—131

Sheldon200010x—350

Urban and Lawton; Burnham and Pappas. W — Burnham. L — Urban. 2B — NM: Miles, Urban.

Baseball

SOUTH MEDFORD 8-10, SOUTH EUGENE 4-0: A first-inning downpour forced South Medford to switch sites from Harry & David field to Lithia & Driveway Fields but the Panthers didn’t break stride in securing a SWC sweep to remain one game behind first-place Roseburg in the standings.

Tanner Douglas went the distance on the mound in Game 1 for the Panthers (17-3, 9-3 SWC) and supplied two hits with two runs and one RBI.

Jace Miller joined Douglas in notching an RBI double in the opener and finished 3-for-5, while Elijah Havey was 3-for-4 with two runs and one RBI and Tosh Stupenhaus went 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs.

Cameron Sewell also provided a two-run single with two outs in the sixth inning for some insurance runs against the Axe (6-15, 1-11).

Kaleb Long was 2-for-2 with five walks drawn in the doubleheader and plated two runs in Game 2.

Sewell allowed only one hit with four strikeouts in the five-inning nightcap, with Carson Joe posting three RBIs while Miller and Douglas each added two hits.

FIRST GAME

South Eugene1110001—420

South Medford210113x—8142

Reeves, Gabriel (4) and Santiago; Douglas and Havey. W — Douglas. L — Reeves. 2B — SM: Miller, Douglas, Stupenhaus.

SECOND GAME

South Eugene00000—010

South Medford2026x—1070

Uceda, Mueller (4) and Reeves; Sewell and Long. W — Sewell. L — Uceda. 2B — SM: Miller, Douglas, Joe.

Photo by Denise Baratta. South Medford's softball team, shown earlier this season getting instruction from head coach Shane Ramsay, is No. 2 in the Class 6A state power rankings.