Grizzlies feast on another 6A team

MEDFORD — Another 6A opponent, another routine win for Ashland. Yes, when the Grizzlies "play up" opponents tend to go straight down. Hard.

South Medford on Friday became only the latest Southern Oregon Hybrid team to get sucked into the Grizzlies' now traditional Thursday/Friday vortex. The Panthers did manage to hang around for a while. Then Ashland broke a scoreless tie in the fourth and added four more runs in the fifth to give senior ace Brady Thomas all the run support he would need to improve to 7-0.

Thomas delivered his seventh complete game and the Grizzlies were clutch at the plate, winning 7-3 at Harry & David Field.

The victory, Ashland's 12th in a row, improved the Grizzlies to 18-1, including 4-1 against 6A competition. South Medford is 10-8

"These guys, they've accomplished a lot and we expect that from them," Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said.

Ashland laced five singles and brought 10 batters to the plate in the pivotal fifth, knocking out South Medford starter Kanin Campbell and seizing a 5-0 lead. Thomas uncorked the biggest, a laser to left that scored Ethan Schlecht and Brent Hegdahl.

Two batters later Evan Westhelle punched through a bases-loaded single to score another, and Campbell was history.

"I was just thinking take a pitch up the middle and really rip the pitcher's head off," Westhelle said.

The Grizzlies only needed one hit to tack on a final insurance run in the sixth thanks to an error and a wild pitch. Thomas' double off the right-field wall plated A.J. Adams and the Grizzlies took a comfortable 7-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

Thomas had three hits (3-for-4) and three RBIs to lead the Grizzlies' offense. He also smothered the opposing offense from the mound, consistently getting ahead of South Medford batters then inducing grounders (nine) and fly balls (10). The senior right-hander finished with just two strikeouts, but he gave up zero free passes and retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced.

"I felt all right," Thomas said. "I had my pitches, and just having a good defense, if you get a ground ball or a pop up you get an out every time."

Westhelle was 2-for-4 with two RBIs batting in the No. 8 slot, and Schlecht was 2-for-2 and scored a run.

Campbell was tagged with the loss after giving up five runs on 10 hits in 41/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one. Ryan Luno took over with one out in the fifth and retired the first two batters he faced to leave the bases loaded. Pat Alexander pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.

"That's a good-hitting club, probably one of the better teams that we've faced this year," South Medford head coach Ray Smith said. "They got their (four) runs there in the fifth inning and we never really recovered.

"It's tough to keep a good hitting team like Ashland down for seven innings, and with (Thomas) on the mound we knew we were going to have to battle for each and every run that we got. We just didn't do enough to get it done."

Since South Medford is barely above .500, there's no telling if the win will help Ashland's standing in the OSAA rankings. The Grizzlies late Friday were ranked third in the 5A RPI standings, behind only No. 1 Pendleton (17-0) and No. 2 Mountain View (16-5). Ashland swept Mountain View on March 21 by a combined score of 29-4.

"We need to get better every day," Senestraro said. "We've got some good ball clubs coming down the road and we'll see what this team is made of."

The Grizzlies have already clinched a playoff berth. They'll host a second-round game (round of 32) on or before May 19.

Ashland 000 142 0 — 7 11 1

South Medford 000 020 1 — 3 7 3

Thomas and Scarminach; Campbell, Luno (5), Alexander (7) and Phillips. W — Thomas (7-0). L — Campbell. 2B — A: Thomas.

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