MEDFORD — Up 5-1 heading into the bottom of the second inning of Game 2, the Ashland Pilots looked like they had moved past the opening-game letdown.
Then came North Medford's second inning, and suddenly Ashland's hopes in the American Legion A Area 4 doubleheader had less to do with splitting and more to do with merely competing. In the end, the Pilots did neither, dropping the opener 12-0 in five innings and the second game 15-5 in six, snapping the Pilots' four-game winning streak at North Medford High.
"We didn't play clean, and our energy wasn't quite there," Ashland coach Josh Hamik said. "They wanted to compete but I just didn't see the same reflection out on the field that we talked about before the game. Mistakes killed us today."
North Medford had 28 hits on the day and overcame an early 4-0 deficit in the second game to pick up the lopsided sweep, finishing both games early by the 10-run mercy rule.
In the opener, Mavericks pitcher Christian Gillis struck out seven and walked four in five strong innings to pick up the win on the mound, while Taylor Raff led North (13-2, 13-1 Area 4) at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Also for North, David Crofton was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored and Brett Pearson was 2-for-3.
Ashland's Steen Fredrickson went 2-for-2 at the plate.
In the nightcap, Ashland (4-3 Area 4) scored four runs on two hits in the first inning but fell behind when the Mavericks scored six runs of their own on five hits and four Ashland errors in the bottom of the second. Crofton was 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run singles, Austin Zavala was 3-for-3 with an RBI and five more Mavericks — Gillis, Pearson, Micah Brown, Jared Evans and Colton Westfall — had two hit apiece.
For Ashland, Ryan Bottimore was 2-for-4 with a double and Fredrickson 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
The Pilots couldn't recover from the second-inning disaster, which saw the Mavericks bat through their order to take a 7-5 lead. Jared Evans and Greyson Wolff started the rally with back-to-back singles, and both scored when Brett Pearson's sacrifice bunt was thrown away by Ashland starting pitcher Eric Carlson. Ashland's next error, a fielding miscue, allowed Gillis to reach first, and another Ashland error during a botched rundown allowed Gillis to advance to third.
A bunt hit then scored Gillis and kicked off another North rush, which included Crofton's line drive to left that brought home two more.
Ashland's misery ended on a positive note when shortstop Steen Fredrickson kick-started a 6-3 double play, but by then the damage had been done.
"We had some younger kids in there, and that might have been a coaching thing," Hamik said. "At this level, when you're playing North you gotta make sure you're bringing all your guns and competing on a day like today. That was maybe an early coaching mistake on my part. I want to make sure that I put the best team out there at all times for Crater and North — those are two teams that we're going to really have to come out and put our best foot forward every game, every inning."
Carlson surrendered eight runs, but only two earned, on 11 hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked one.
For North Medford, Brown took over for the starter, Pearson, with one out and one on in the second and held the Pilots to one run on five hits the rest of the way.
Ashland grabbed the early momentum in the first when Fredrickson scored on a bases-loaded error, another run scored on a wild pitch and Tommy Hulick hit a two-run single that stayed just inside the left-field foul line.
The Pilots tacked on another run in the second when Brown walked Jamie Flynn on four pitches with the bases loaded. But Ashland missed a chance to blow open the game when Hulick's hot shot to center was hauled in by the hard-charging Gillis.
In the first game, Brown hit an RBI single in the first and Taylor Raff an RBI double in the second as North took a 3-0 lead into the third against Ashland starter Nick Sanderson, an incoming eighth-grader. In the third, North loaded the bases with nobody out before exploding for seven runs.
Following the losses, Hamik said Ashland is still trying to find its identity.
"I told them it's early in the season, we've got a long time to prove who we are," he said. "We've got to find out who we are as a team. And that's our goal right now — to really say, who are we going to be. We gotta be guys who don't make mistakes, guys who go to the end and hustle and dive and want to be out there.
"Baseball's one of those games that you just have to go get it done. And that's what we're going to do as a team. It's early in the season, so you gotta want it."
Ashland 000 00 — 0 4 1
North Medford 217 2x — 12 10 0
Sanderson, Whelan (3), Alpenia (4) and Glick; Gillis and Zavala, Keindrich. W — Gillis. L — Sanderson. 2B — NM: Raff, Crofton.
Ashland 410 000 — 5 7 7
North Medford 161 223 — 15 18 2
Carlson, Hulick (4), Scott (5) and Cammarota; Pearson, Brown (2) and Zavala. W — Brown. L — Carlson. 2B — A: Bottimore; NM: Brown, Crofton.