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PREP SOFTBALL: South claims first title in 19 years

No. 3 Panthers sweep Grants Pass in impressive fashion for SWC crown

The exuberant jumps of joy told the story Saturday for the South Medford softball team, which wrapped up at least a share of its first conference title in 19 years with an impressive road sweep at Grants Pass, 5-4 and 16-4.

“They were pumped up,” Panthers head coach Shane Ramsay said of his team. “They knew what was on the line so they competed hard and played well and did a great job of getting it done today. I’m proud of them.”

South Medford, No. 3 in the Class 6A coaches poll as well as the state power rankings, improved to 22-4 overall and 13-2 in Southwest Conference play. Although the Panthers won 2 of 3 against Sheldon this spring, the Irish (20-5, 12-2 SWC) still have a chance Monday to create a share of the SWC crown with a win over South Eugene.

South Medford last shared a conference title with North Medford in 2003, and the best finish in recent years was a runner-up showing in 2017.

“What these girls have done is huge,” Ramsay said. “It’s big time and they deserve it.”

The Panthers were able to accomplish their feat in vastly different ways Saturday against the host Cavers (10-16, 6-9), scoring a comeback win with three unanswered runs in the opener before busting out with 19 hits in a nightcap that was close until a scoring barrage over the final three frames.

“The bats really got hot,” Ramsay said, “especially for Nicole Ledendecker. She was smoking.”

Ledendecker ripped an RBI double to put South on the board in Game 1 and later scored on an error to create a 2-1 advantage.

After Grants Pass responded with three runs in the third, highlighted by a triple from Alyssa Jimenez and RBI effort by Reagan Bruner, South Medford closed the door on any upset hopes when Maddy Fullenwider doubled and scored in the fourth and Kirsten Morgan supplied a clutch go-ahead two-run double to the left field fence in the fifth.

“Kirsten’s really come through in the clutch for us several times this year,” said Ramsay. “She’s been great.”

That 5-4 lead seemed tenuous as the Cavers got the tying run on second base with no outs in the sixth but Kayce Hudson got a strikeout, flyout and some slick defensive help by second baseman June Woster to keep GP at bay.

“June really made some great plays on defense today,” said Ramsay. “She had several of them to help us out.”

Hudson then sent the Cavers down in order in the seventh to give South a chance at conference supremacy in Game 2.

The Panthers were clinging to a 4-3 lead in the nightcap when they broke the game open with a six-run surge in the fifth inning that saw South connect for six hits in a row.

After Maleyah Thoele started the frame with a walk and was sacrificed to second, Woster lifted a ball to left field that resulted in an RBI triple after a diving effort came up empty in the outfield. Morgan then drove in a run with a single to right field before a single by Fullenwider and scorched RBI double down the third base line by Ledendecker.

Briana Turrey followed with an RBI single, Jordan Knutson singled to center field and Nahlani Quigley was hit by a pitch to load the bases and set the stage for a two-run double by Thoele that made it 10-3.

Ledendecker added another RBI double in the sixth before the hit parade again picked up in the seventh for South, with a double by Knutson kick-starting a five-hit frame by the Panthers. Thoele had an RBI single, Morgan added a two-run single and two runs scored on a groundout by Fullenwider that came on a diving stop and throw at second base by Alexa Medley.

Ledendecker combined to go 5-for-8 with four doubles, three runs and three RBIs in the twin bill, while Morgan was 4-for-8 with six RBIs, Thoele 4-for-6 with three runs and three RBIs and Woster totaled five runs scored.

FIRST GAME

South Medford0201200—570

Grants Pass1030000—442

Hudson and Hillyer; Martin and Harry. W — Hudson. L — Martin. 2B — SM: Ledendecker, Morgan, Fullenwider. 3B — GP: Medley, Jimenez.

SECOND GAME

South Medford1021615—16194

Grants Pass1002100—472

Knutson, Hudson (4) and Hillyer; Martin, Falk (5) and Harry. W — Hudson. L — Falk. 2B — SM: Ledendecker 3, Thoele, Woster, Hudson, Knutson; GP: Falk, Hook. 3B — SM: Woster.

NORTH MEDFORD 13-16, SOUTH EUGENE 3-1: Rhyan Hamlin and Gabbi Urban each finished with two hits and two RBIs in the five-inning opener for North Medford to help the Black Tornado sweep the home SWC twin bill.

Hamlin had a two-run single in a six-run first inning that saw North Medford bat around in Game 1, with Caileigh Raines also providing a two-run single.

Urban opened the scoring with an RBI double and finished 2-for-4, while Hamlin was 2-for-3, Emily Dunn 2-for-4 and Anna Gates 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI.

Alexis Wadley had a two-run single in the fourth inning to help ensure the mercy rule victory for the Black Tornado (12-13, 6-9 SWC).

Alyssa Hartzheim allowed only two hits with five strikeouts, and only one of the three runs in her four innings inside the circle were earned by South Eugene (3-20, 0-14).

Game 2 information was not available as of press time.

FIRST GAME

South Eugene00030—326

North Medford6115x—13122

Langan-Forbes and Ransford; Hartzheim, Urban (5) and Beers. W — Hartzheim. L — Langan-Forbes. 2B — NM: Urban.

ASHLAND 16-10, WILLAMETTE 11-5: At Ashland, Willamette led 7-0 with Imari Rose Gabica pitching a no-hitter through five innings before Ashland — playing as the visiting team — erupted for 10 runs in the sixth to take control in the pivotal MWL clash.

Gabby Heiken and Glory Pistole each had two-run doubles to help the Grizzlies (16-7, 10-4 MWL) take the lead in the sixth and Ashland scored six more runs in the seventh to complete the comeback.

Heiken finished 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs while Ivy Clason and Tessa Hobein each drove in three runs in the opener.

Ashland secured a sweep that likely could lead to a 5A playoff berth as Pistole went 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs, including a solo home run. Shelby Brown, Heiken and Tatum Pantle each added two hits, with Brown driving in three runs and Heiken plating two to double up the Wolverines (13-8, 8-6).

FIRST GAME

Ashland00000(10)6—1671

Willamette1202240—11160

Pistole and Theobald; Gabica, D. Smith (6), Ireland (6) and Evans. W — Pistole (9-5). L — Ireland. 2B — A: Heiken, Pistole.

SECOND GAME

Ashland1004140—10134

Willamette0203000—591

Heiken, Pistole (5) and Theobald; Gabica, Ireland (7) and Evans. W — Heiken (7-2). L — Gabica. 2B — A: Pistole, Heiken, Brown; W: Eads. HR — A: Pistole (5).

HIDDEN VALLEY 10-5, PHOENIX 8-15: At Phoenix, Kendall Heywood and Jayden Vos each drove in three runs in Game 2 to help Phoenix salvage a split in its regular season finale.

Alexis Dial and Raelyssa Goff each had two hits and two RBIs, while Izabelle Pair-Gilmore also plated a pair of runs in the nightcap for Phoenix (9-15, 7-8 Skyline). Carsyn Gallegos also had two hits and an RBI in the six-inning contest.

Hidden Valley (11-11, 8-7) won the opener in 10 innings after an RBI single by Kylie Douglas and sacrifice fly by Georgia Beck gave the Mustangs the advantage in the top of the 10th.

Isabella McGee went 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Addison Brite had two hits and two RBIs and Pair-Gilmore also plated two runs.

FIRST GAME

Hidden Valley2001203002—10141

Phoenix2312000000—8140

Jacob and Bents; Vos, Goff (8) and Brite. W — Jacob. L — Goff. 2B — HV: Schmidt, Douglas; P: Brite. 3B — P: Croy.

SECOND GAME

Hidden Valley202010—574

Phoenix100662—15130

Chambers, Hill (4), Jacob (5) and Bents; Goff and Pair gilmore. W — Goff. L — x. 2B — P: Goff, Brite, Dial, Gilmore.

Photo By Denise Baratta. South Medford runner Nicole Ledendecker, shown in action earlier this season, had three doubles in Game 2 to help the Panthers secure a sweep of Grants Pass on Saturday.