Grizzlies sprint past TDW

Here's a scary thought for the Class 5A baseball world: These Ashland Grizzlies don't need a dominator on the mound to win in the playoffs.

Sometimes, they don't even need to play much defense.

Take Wednesday's first-round game against The Dalles Wahtonka. The Grizzlies booted four easy outs to cough up a six-run lead, then answered emphatically with a five-run fifth to blow the game open for the second time, eventually winning 13-8 at a soggy North Mountain Park.

That's 33 runs in two playoff games — and it's not likely to stop there.

"We just play all the way through, hit the ball as hard as we can," Ashland shortstop Ethan Schlecht said. "We needed to put those runs on the board. That's what's been leading us this whole way through so we just need to keep pounding the ball."

The win earned the Grizzlies (24-1) a quarterfinal date with West Albany, Friday in Ashland. The Bulldogs (20-7) beat Hood River 12-5 in another first-round game.

Ashland jumped on The Dalles Wahtonka (5-16) early and appeared to be in complete control after Billy Hansen's two-run single put the Grizzlies in front 8-2 in the third.

The Eagle Indians made a game of it in the fourth, however, taking advantage of Brent Hegdahl's worst nightmare. The usually reliable third baseman, who committed just four errors during the entire regular season, misplayed three grounders, and the Eagle Indians cashed in with a Kenny Harris' two-run homer and RBI singles by Jake Keller and Justin Sugg.

"The conversation (in the dugout) was, 'We need to answer back," Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said. "'They're trying to shut us down and we need to make a statement.'"

The Grizzlies didn't panic. Instead, they flexed their offensive muscle again in a game-saving fifth, with Taylor Humphrey's run-scoring single giving them the lead for good and Schlecht's two-run double to left-center providing plenty of insurance.

Ashland reliever Christian Morrison took it from there. The hard-throwing senior hit 88 mph on the radar gun — a personal high — and shut down The Dalles Wahtonka over the last three innings to clinch Ashland's 19th win in a row.

Morrison's solid outing also allowed Ashland to save ace Brady Thomas, the likely starter against West Albany.

"I was really nervous, just ready to go and there was a lot of pent up emotion," Morrison said. "My arm's been feeling good all week."

Hansen was 2-for-3 with a towering home run, his second of the year, and three RBIs, while Schlecht was 2-for-3 with four RBIs. Scarminach was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

The Dalles Wahtonka was led by Harris, the lefty leadoff hitter, who was 2-for-3, including the fourth-inning bomb that barely managed to stay inside the foul pole in right. Connor Mathisen, Keller and Sugg also had two hits apiece for the Eagle Indians. The bottom of The Dalles Wahtonka's lineup was blown away, however — the 7-8-9 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with four strikeouts.

Max Anderson started on the hill for Ashland and lasted only four innings. His 40-pitch fourth put him at 100 pitches, forcing Senestraro's hand. Anderson struck out four and had Ashland within an out of escaping the fourth inning unscathed before the error-fest began.

The Dalles Wahtonka starter Andrew Olsen, a big left-hander, gave up eight runs (five earned) in 22/3 innings.

"We've had a lot of things happen this year, a lot of adversity," The Dalles Wahtonka coach J.R. Runyon said, "and for them to finish as well as they did and come together the way they did, I'm proud of them."

Ashland advanced to the state semifinals four years in a row, mostly on the strength of a stellar pitching staff and solid defense. But this year's Grizzlies are busy ruining all previous scouting reports. They've scored 274 runs, second in the state.

"They're a very resilient group that can hit the ball really well against any pitcher," Senestraro said. "We're still in the playoffs."

The Dalles Wahtonka 101 600 0 — 8 8 2

Ashland 323 050 x — 13 10 5

Olsen, MacNab (3), Mathisen (3) and Woods; Anderson, Morrison (5) and Scarminach. W — Morrison (4-0). L — Mathisen (2-1). 2B — A: Schlecht, Westhelle; TDW: Harris, Mathisen, Olsen. 3B — A: Scarminach. HR — A: Hansen (2); TDW: Harris (4).

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