AHS baseball team moves up to No. 1 in OSAA rankings

The Ashland High baseball team has jumped from No. 2 to No. 1 in the OSAA Class 5A rankings, an ascension which places the Grizzlies in position to grab the top overall seed should they advance to the final 16-team tournament in the upcoming playoffs.

Not that head coach Don Senestraro is concerned about that.

"I don't know how any of that works," he said. "We really are just trying to win every game no matter who's on the other side.

"You're going to have to beat the best teams (in the playoffs) anyway. So if you're not ready to do that, you're not ready to do that."

With Pendleton's loss on Saturday to The Dalles-Wahtonka, Ashland (20-1) has the best overall record in the state in any classification. The Grizzlies have won 14 games in a row since a 15-5 setback to Roseburg on March 31.

The Grizzlies, who have advanced to the state semifinals four years in a row and to the state championship game twice in the last three years, have already clinched first place in the 5A Southern Oregon Hybrid and will host a second-round playoff game May 19. They have three games remaining on their regular season schedule, but are looking to add a fourth — ideally against a high caliber 6A team, Senestraro said — after a game against Sheldon was recently cancelled. After today's doubleheader against North Valley, Ashland has a week off before finishing up with Henley.

"I think we're playing well, but any coach thinks you can always play better," Senestraro said. "Hopefully, we can tie up some loose ends here in the last week and a half and get ready to compete in the (second) round of the playoffs."

In order to advance to the round of 16, the Grizzlies will have to beat the winner of a game between the Mid-Willamette No. 8 seed and the Midwestern No. 5. Currently, winless Woodburn (0-19) is last in the Mid-Willamette and Willamette (6-13) is fifth in the Midwestern.

If the Grizzlies get through that, they'll likely earn an advantageous position in the 16-team bracket, which will be seeded according to the final OSAA rankings. According to the OSAA's playoff plan, the higher-ranked team will be the host team in the first two rounds of the tourney. After that, the team with the least amount of home games in previous rounds will host. If the opponents have an equal number of home games, the higher-ranked team will host.

Unless Ashland stumbles down the stretch, that playoff plan will work in its favor. As it stands now, Ashland's first three postseason games will likely be played at North Mountain Park, where the Grizzlies are 52-2 since 2008. The next game, the state semifinals, may also be in Ashland, depending on who its opponent is.

Also ranked in the top five, as of Thursday night, are No. 2 Mountain View (16-5), No. 3 Pendleton (19-1), No. 4 North Eugene (15-6) and No. 5 Marist (18-4).

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