And away they go

Orville Hector | Daily TidingsAshland High head coach Don Senestraro, right, hugs senior outfielder Max Gordon after the Grizzlies beat Pendleton 8-1 in the OSAA Class 5A state semifinals Tuesday at North Mountain Park. Gordon went 2-for-3 with a double as Ashland picked up its 20th win in a row.

Gatorade bucket in tow, Max Gordon and Matt Dierks had head coach Don Senestraro in their sights. But just when a direct hit appeared imminent, Senestraro spun around and saved all but his ankles from certain doom.

"Not this time," he said afterward.

That's OK, boys. You may get another shot on Saturday. And it's harder to spin with a baseball trophy under your arm.

Sam Gaviglio and Nick Hall had two RBIs apiece and Gaviglio held Pendleton to three hits in six innings as the Grizzlies beat the Buckaroos 8-1 in the Class 5A state semifinals Tuesday at North Mountain Park.

The win, Ashland's 20th straight, advances the fourth-ranked Grizzlies (27-2) to their first-ever state championship game Saturday in Keizer, where they will face the top-ranked Thurston Colts (26-2) at Volcanoes Stadium.

"That's where we wanted to go the whole season, that's our goal and we're not done yet," said Gaviglio, who struck out six without a walk to improve to 12-0.

"It's crazy," added Gordon, who went 2-for-3 with a double. "Last year when we got here we were just happy to be at this point. This year, it's kind of a whole new frame of mind. We came in thinking we can't expect anything less than a state championship. We're playing so well, anything less is a disappointment."

The Grizzlies took the lead for good, 3-1, on Hall's clutch two-run single off Pendleton starter Taylor West with two outs in the fourth, then put the eighth-ranked Buckaroos (20-8) away in the fifth. There, the No. 2 seed from the Intermountain Conference committed three crucial errors to help Ashland score four runs on a single hit &

Gaviglio's RBI single to right.

West allowed five hits and four earned runs in four innings of work before giving way to freshman Isaiah VanPelt, who gave up three runs (one earned) on three hits in two innings.

Already up 7-1, the Grizzlies tacked on another run on Gaviglio's RBI double in the sixth. Two pitches later the Ashland fan base, on hand to witness history, held its collective breath as one of the state's most valuable arms made a charge for home on Ian Kendall's single. Gaviglio didn't score, but he didn't collide with the catcher, either, which means he'll be the likely starter when the Grizzlies take on Thurston. That's good news for Ashland &

the senior hurler entered Tuesday's game having pitched 36 consecutive scoreless innings.

"We didn't play well, and we certainly didn't hit Gaviglio," Pendleton head coach Greg Whitten said. "He's an outstanding pitcher."

Gaviglio's scoreless innings streak was snapped with one out in the top of the second when Pendleton center fielder Alex Doherty hit a solo home run to right to give the Buckaroos the early 1-0 lead.

Ashland tied the game in the third when Gordon scored on Owen Baldrica's towering sacrifice fly to deep center. Gordon started the one-out rally with a double down the first-base line.

In the fourth, West plunked two of the first three batters he faced to load the bases for Hayden Miller, who grounded into a 1-2 fielder's choice. That kept the game tied at 1-all and brought up Hall, the No. 9 batter in Ashland's loaded lineup. Hall, a sophomore, worked the count to 2-1 before ripping a single up the middle to score Gaviglio and Kendall.

"(West) was being a little wild, so I just wanted to make sure it was a perfect pitch," Hall said. "I thought it was a good pitch to hit and I just swung."

Things fell apart for the Buckaroos in the fifth. Charlie Sebrell reached on a fielding error, then Baldrica took another West pitch to the back. That prompted Whitten to replace West with VanPelt, who then walked Luke Jannusch to load the bases. Tygerson followed with a sacrifice fly to left and Gaviglio kept it going with his single. Three pitches later, Kendall hit a weak grounder to short. The Buckaroos could have stopped the bleeding there by completing a double-play, but Gabe Rowe's throw to second missed its mark, allowing Jannusch to score and keeping the inning alive.

Later, Gaviglio came home on a fielder's choice to give the Grizzlies a commanding six-run cushion.

"On top of not being able to put some hits together, I thought we didn't play well defensively," said Whitten, whose team was errorless in its 8-6 quarterfinal win over Mountain View.

Whitten added that the Buckaroos were shorthanded in the pitching department; two starters were injured and unavailable.

"One had a really bad elbow and the other broke his hand &

I'm not making excuses, but it would have been nice to have a couple other arms to throw at them today," he said.

Now, Ashland moves on to Keizer, where the Grizzlies will face a Thurston team that hasn't lost since April 7 and has outscored its three playoff opponents 32-12.

Ashland hasn't lost since April 1.

It's a dream matchup of sorts. The two teams are a combined 43-1 against Class 5A competition.

"We don't flaunt it &

I like to keep a low profile here &

but our goal all along was to be where we are now," Senestraro said. "Our thing was one game at a time, but this is where we wanted to be when we had our first team meeting back in February.

"They set their goal on something and we'll be there on Saturday."

Notes: Gaviglio (3-for-3) and Gordon (2-for-3) combined to go 5-for-6 with three runs scored. The rest of the Ashland lineup was 3-for-18. Pendleton lost in the state semis for the second year in a row after falling to Crater in the final four last season, 8-2. Ashland starting catcher Lewis Sebrell was out sick and was replaced behind the plate by Miller, who usually plays as a designated hitter. The Grizzlies will be the designated road team on Saturday. The first pitch is tentatively scheduled to be thrown at 1:30 p.m. Scouts from both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon were on hand to watch Gaviglio. After the game, the OSU scout talked to Ashland's ace and told Gaviglio that the Beavers want him in orange and black. When asked after the game what was the bigger thrill, clinching a state championship berth or being asked to join the Beavers, Gaviglio didn't hesitate: "Going to the championship game, because I get to share that with my friends."

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Ashland Grizzlies celebrate after their 8 to — victory over the Pendleton Bucks in Ashland at North Mountain Park.

Orville Hector | Daily Tidings

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

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