'Just another game' for playoff bound Grizzlies

The Ashland High baseball roster is almost completely devoid of prep playoff experience of any kind, in any sport. But don't tell that to Lewis Sebrell.

Playoff pressure? So what. The Grizzlies' sophomore catcher insists that his team is battle tested by way of an early-season slump that forced Ashland to run the table over the last two weeks of the regular season.

"What we tell ourselves is that we've already been in the playoffs for weeks," said Sebrell, a key contributor on some of the best Little League and Babe Ruth teams in Ashland history. "We had to win those seven games straight, so we usually say right before the game, 'It's just another game.'"

The next "just another game" is today, when the Grizzlies (16-10) take on Roosevelt (14-10) in the second round of the OSAA Class 5A state playoffs. The winner advances to face either fifth-ranked Corvallis or Madras in Friday's quarterfinal round.

Ashland enters today's game on a seven-game winning streak, the last two of which allowed the Grizzlies to leapfrog Mazama and capture the Southern Sky Conference's second and final playoff berth.

Highlighting Ashland's late-season charge has been the team pitching. The Grizzlies have allowed just one run in their last 43 innings, a stretch that includes five shutouts. The ace of the bunch is Gus Gaviglio (6-3), a senior right-hander who leads the team in earned run average (1.33), strikeouts (58) and complete games (five).

Ashland coach Don Senestraro said Gaviglio will get the start against Roosevelt.

"It's win you move on, lose you go home, so it's definitely more pressure on me," Gaviglio said, "but I'm just going to stick to our original game plan that we've been using the whole season and hopefully it works."

For one long mid-season stretch, Ashland failed to execute the part of its game plan that included making routine plays on defense, a flaw that nearly doomed the Grizzlies after they lost six of the first nine games on their SSC schedule. The mistakes seemed to have a ripple effect, stunting the team's production at the plate and accuracy on the mound.

But just when exasperation turned into desperation, something clicked. Ashland's defense tightened up, errors became few and far between and the pitching staff, previously flirting with mediocrity, began to dominate. Now, Ashland's team ERA is 2.19, its batting average is a solid .325 and the Grizzlies enter the postseason playing easily their best defense of the season.

Thus, the Grizzlies are a confident bunch heading into the program's first playoff game since 2004.

"We all have a goal: We'd love a state title," said senior second baseman Tysin Senestraro, who leads the Grizzlies in batting average (.500), on-base percentage (.570) and stolen bases (14). "We know that we can reach that goal if we all try our best so we're all out here giving it all we've got. We're just going to take it one step at a time and see if we can take it all the way."

All the way would be to Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, site of the 5A state championship game on June 2. The Grizzlies must win three games against some of the best teams in the state to get there &

Ashland is on the same side of the bracket as No. — Sherwood, No. 2 Summit and No. 6 Churchill.

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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