Grizzlies bounced

Orville Hector | Daily TidingsAshland High senior Gus Gaviglio reacts during the postgame meeting with coaches Tuesday at North Mountain Park. Gaviglio and the rest of the Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs by Churchill, which had 19 hits in its 10-6 semifinal win. The Lancers advance to Saturday's state championship game at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.

Don and Tysin Senestraro sat side-by-side in the dugout, a coach and his player, a father and his son soaking up the final moments of what was almost certainly their final game together.

Neither thought it would end like this.

"I really thought we were going to go all the way," Don Senestraro, Ashland's head coach, said afterwards, shaking his head and staring out at the empty field. "We were on such a roll. We weren't here thinking that we were the Cinderella kids. We thought we deserved to be here. They're very disappointed."

Buried under an avalanche of hits, not even another dramatic Ashland comeback could keep the Grizzlies' magical season going. Not against the sluggers from Churchill. The Lancers scored five quick runs in the first inning and blasted 19 hits as a team to cruise past Ashland 10-6 in the semifinals of the OSAA Class 5A state baseball tournament Tuesday at North Mountain Park.

Anthony Kreitz went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple and three RBIs and Justin Hoffman went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as the No. 6-ranked Lancers (21-7) earned the right to play No. 3-ranked Crater in Saturday's state championship game at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.

"I'm still soaking it in," Churchill coach Erik Hoberg said, smiling from ear to ear after a round of congratulatory hugs. "We've been waiting a long time for this. For this group of kids who have worked so hard for the past four years, these seniors, it's just an incredible feeling and I'm so proud of them and so happy for what they've accomplished up to this point."

Fresh off the first quarterfinal win in team history, the Lancers again played like a team used to the pressure &

especially at the plate. They had seven hits in the first inning, including a two-run double by starting pitcher Andrew Schumacher. More impressive, they did it against Ashland ace Gus Gaviglio, who entered the game with a sub-1.40 earned run average.

Ashland stormed back with a four-run, two-out rally in the third that cut the lead to 6-5. The surge included the Grizzlies' first two home runs of the season &

first a solo shot by Justin Meza then a three-run dinger by Owen Baldrica. Churchill held on though, blanking Ashland over the next three innings while tacking on three insurance runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to win going away.

Meza went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Gaviglio went 3-for-4 with one RBI to lead Ashland (18-11), which lost for the first time since being swept by Crater on May 1.

Schumacher picked up the win despite giving up seven hits and five earned runs in three innings. His replacement, Darrell Hunter, slowed down Ashland over the last four innings, holding the Grizzlies to one run on four hits.

Churchill's powerful lineup continued its tear through the state playoffs. In the bombastic three-game run, the Lancers have scored a combined 29 runs against top-ranked Sherwood, No. 2-ranked Summit and the unranked Grizzlies. Churchill was 19-for-37 with five extra-base hits at the plate against Ashland, a team that surrendered just eight runs in its previous eight games combined.

After giving up 17 of those hits in six innings, Gaviglio could only tip his hat to the Lancers.

"Sometimes you just play a better team," he said. "That first inning, I don't know what was going on because I was keeping my curve ball low, hitting my spots."

Against the Lancers, it didn't matter.

Darrell Hunter started the first-inning onslaught with a single. After Peter Straka's sacrifice bunt, Churchill pounded out four straight hits capped by Drew Irsfled's RBI double off the wall in left-center.

Ashland plated one in the bottom of the inning, but the Lancers got it back in the second on Hoffman's RBI single to left.

One strike away from going down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the third, Ashland made a game of it. First, Meza turned on Schumacher's 0-2 delivery and drove it over the wall in left. Then, after consecutive singles by Gaviglio and Hayden Miller, Baldrica crushed the second bomb of the inning.

Ashland couldn't ride the momentum shift all the way back, however, stranding the tying run on base in both the fourth and the fifth before Churchill expanded its lead in the sixth. That's when Hunter and Kreitz both doubled, Hoffman and Matt Myrmo singled and the Lancers suddenly were up four again at 9-5.

Kreitz's RBI triple made it 10-5 in the sixth, but it turned out Churchill didn't need any more insurance despite a short-lived scare in the bottom of the seventh. Ashland's first two batters reached base and the Grizzlies were a hit away from bringing the tying run to the plate before Hunter retired the next three batters on two pop ups and a strikeout.

"I thought we were going to do it again," Baldrica said. "We were fighting pretty hard. I thought the momentum was shifting and we just didn't come up big. We needed some big hits when we had runners on base and we just didn't get some of those hits."

Ashland's best chance to tie the game came in the fourth, when Garrett Tygerson led off with a single and advanced to second on Tysin Senestraro's sacrifice bunt. But four days after coming back from a 4-1 deficit to stun Corvallis, the Grizzlies didn't have the goods this time around. Max Gordon flied out to center to culminate a seven-pitch battle with Hunter and Lewis Sebrell popped out to second to end the inning.

The Lancers celebrated briefly after the final out before turning their attention to Crater, a team that also scored in bunches against the Grizzlies this season. The Comets, who also play in the Southern Sky Conference, swept the season series against Ashland, winning the four games by a combined score of 34-14.

"Obviously, it's satisfying to win this game and to make it to the state championship game," Hoberg said, "but for us, we've had one goal all year. It was just, let's get ourselves prepared and play good baseball at the end. It always comes down to who's playing good baseball at the end."

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Ashland1040001""6 11 2

Schumacher, Hunter (4) and Hoffman. Gaviglio, Killeen (7) and L. Sebrell. W &

Schumacher. L &


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C: Irsfeld, Hunter, Kreitz; A: Tygerson, Gordon. 3B &

C: Schumacher, Kreitz. HR &

A: Meza, Baldrica.

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

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