Ashland Babe Ruth team nabs state title

Ashland pulled off three straight comeback wins over the weekend, including a 14-4, five-inning victory over Umpqua Valley that clinched the 14-year-old Babe Ruth Southern Oregon state championship Sunday at Klamath Falls.

The win advances Ashland to the 14-year-old Pacific Northwest Regionals, which begin Sunday at Twin Falls, Idaho.

Ashland rallied to a 6-4 pool play win over South Coast on Saturday to advance to the semifinals, then edged Upper Rogue 5-4 in eight innings to cruise into the championship round. There, Ashland overcame a 3-0 deficit by scoring seven runs in the third inning and seven more over the next two innings to overwhelm Umpqua Valley.

"This was the game these kids have played and practiced for six years to get to," Ashland head coach Doug Hamel said. "Many of these kids have played together in the spring and in the fall since second grade. I was so proud of the kids. They never gave up in this tournament. They fought hard and came back a few times. They played together and learned to trust their teammates."

In the championship game, Taylor Humphrey was 2-for-4 with a triple, Ethan Schlecht was 2-for-3 with a double, AJ Adams was 2-for-4 with a double and Rose Marston was 2-for-4 with a double. Also for Ashland, Tanner Hoover was 1-for-1 with three walks and two RBIs and Collin Hamel had a two-out, run-scoring single.

Schlecht went the distance on the mound; he gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning then shut Umpqua Valley down, allowing just one run on one hit and an error the rest of the way.

Ashland's championship hopes were in jeopardy after Upper Rogue scored to take a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning in the semifinals. Ashland tied the game in the sixth on an RBI single by Adams and took the lead in the seventh on Billy Hansen's sacrifice fly to deep center.

Upper Rogue of Eagle Point tied the game in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, but Ashland took the lead for good in the top of the eighth on Ikiaka Cecil's RBI single to right.

"After losing to Upper Rogue in pool play, we knew we had to play a our best against them," Doug Hamel said. "We needed to be more patient with our batting this game. We knew we could hit better than we did in our first game. We had to believe in ourselves."

Against South Coast, Ashland fell behind early, 2-0, before scoring three runs in the third, another in the fifth and two in the sixth to take the lead for good.

Schlecht pitched a complete-game with four strikeouts and three walks.

Ashland's batting was paced by the bottom of the order. Hamel was 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored twice, Sam Taylor was 1-for-3 and also scored twice and Ikiaka Cecil was 2-for-3 with a double. Also for Ashland, Humphrey was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Hansen was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.

"(Saturday) showed the kids how well they can all play," Doug Hamel said. "They played hard for all seven innings."

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