Two weeks of frustration for the Ashland High softball team could be aptly summed up in a single moment on Saturday afternoon.
Here were the defending Southern Sky Conference champions, already having dropped one game, trailing 3-0 in another. But the red and white clung to hope of a rally, sending its senior co-captain and best hitter to the plate with the bases loaded in the early stages of the second game of a doubleheader. Amanda Good normally thrives on these types of pressure situations. But these days are anything but normal for Good and the Grizzlies.
Confronted with the chance to put her team right back into contention with one swing of the bat, Good struck out swinging against Mazama pitching star Ali Edwards. And the Grizzlies went meekly the rest of the day, dropping both ends of a SSC twinbill, 5-2 and 10-1, to the Vikings at North Mountain Park to fall into sole possession of last place in the SSC.
"This was a really hard game for us," Ashland senior Sarah Silbowitz said. "We didn't really expect to lose."
Good, to be certain, was hardly alone in coming up short on Saturday. The batters hit just .187 for the day, the pitchers yielded twice as many runs as they recorded strikeouts and the fielders struggled with ground balls, fly balls and thrown balls alike in a seven-error disappointment that ended in Ashland's fifth straight loss and sixth in the last seven games. The Grizzlies (8-8, 0-4 SSC), who haven't endured such a streak since 2006, have been outscored 42-8 in the past five games.
"We weren't hitting," Ashland coach Misty Potochnick said. "Mazama came ready to play. Absolutely, give them credit. They hit the ball really well and they played great defense. But I'm disappointed with what we did at the plate."
"I think we're all just in a bit of a slump," said senior Caitlin Williams, who ended a personal 0-for-13 slump with a single in the second game. "We were trying our hardest, but the balls were just going to people. We had some hits, but the ball went to a person each time."
Edwards (9-1) picked up a pair of wins, scattering nine hits between the two games and got plenty of help from a defense that turned four double plays as the Vikings (13-2, 4-0 SSC) won their sixth straight game and took sole possession of the conference lead. The Vikings, who last reached postseason when they lost the Class 4A state championship game in 2006, have already eclipsed their win total (10) of a season ago.
"We knew we were going to do good this year, but we're doing even better than expected," said Mazama second baseman Darian Grigsby, who had three hits and was part of two of the Vikings' four double plays.
Edwards struck out just five, but had 22 ground ball outs.
"Last year and the year before, I tried to get more strikeouts," she said. "This year I don't care if they hit, because I know my defense behind me is going to get anything that comes to them."
Mazama snapped a 1-all tie with three runs in the sixth inning of the opener against Ashland starter Bella Pribyl. Grigsby led off with a single, Lacey Garrett lined a double just a couple of feet inside the left-field line and Edwards followed with a triple to the base of the fence in center and scored on Melissa Jones' single. The Vikings added an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Hayley Ross.
Edwards, who just missed a home run in the first game, left no doubt in her first at-bat of game two, launching a ball over the center field fence for her first homer of the season, a two-run shot. It marked the second straight week that Ashland has allowed a home run to the opposing pitcher.
Pribyl (7-6) continued to struggle, allowing 14 runs (10 earned) and 12 hits in 12 innings in losing her fourth consecutive decision. Her control was much improved, however, surrendering only three walks.
"At least on the pitching end, we didn't walk a lot of batters," Potochnick said. "I'd rather them get a solid base hit than to walk a batter."
Mazama did have a number of hard-hit balls, including a double and triple by Garrett and the two extra-base hits by Edwards.
"They were a good hitting team," Pribyl said.
The Ashland defense didn't help much, committing seven more errors that led to five unearned runs.
"Defensively, we can't give them four and five outs," Potochnick admitted.
Only once in 14 innings did the Grizzlies string together more than one hit in an inning and Rose Marston's second-inning double was the team's only extra-base hit.
After falling behind 3-0 in game two on Edwards' homer and Garrett's RBI triple, the Grizzlies threatened in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with one out on Williams' single and a pair of hit batters. But Hayley Ross grounded back to the mound and Williams was forced out at home plate before Good struck out to end the threat.
Mazama extended the lead to 8-0 — including scoring two runs on a single sacrifice fly to deep left by Garrett — before the Grizzlies plated an unearned run in the sixth on Carley Santee's two-out single.
Mazama 100 003 1 — 5 6 3
Ashland 001 000 1 — 2 4 3
Edwards and Garrett; Pribyl, Ross (5) and Santee. WP — Edwards (8-1). LP —- Pribyl (7-5). 2B — MAZ: Pinner, Garrett. 3B —- MAZ: Edwards.
Mazama 201 041 2 — 10 7 3
Ashland 000 001 0 — 1 5 4
Edwards and Garrett; Pribyl and Santee. WP—Edwards (9-1). LP — Pribyl (7-6). 2B — MAZ: Pinner, McPhee. AHS: Marston 3B —- MAZ: Garrett. HR — MAZ: Edwards (1).