EAGLE POINT — Ashland didn't have much incentive. But with Ian Kendall on the mound, Eagle Point didn't have much of a chance.
Ashland's hard-throwing righty struck out 11 Eagle Point batters in six scoreless innings and ripped a solo home run as the No. 2-ranked Grizzlies extended their winning streak to 16 games and dealt a major blow to the Eagles' playoff hopes Thursday with a 6-0 victory at The Yard.
Eagle Point (12-12, 9-7 Southern Sky) still has an outside shot at qualifying for the postseason, but needs a lot of help Saturday, when Crater travels to Klamath Falls for a doubleheader against Klamath Union. The Comets need one win to wrap up the SSC's No. 2 seed to the Class 5A state baseball tournament.
The Eagles' setback comes two days after they blew a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning of an eventual 4-3 loss to Crater.
"The bottom line is, we didn't take of business on Tuesday against Crater and had we done that, today's game wouldn't have mattered and Saturday's games at KU wouldn't have mattered," Eagle Point coach Joe Meerten said. "You can't knock the system. It is what it is."
Ashland (19-3, 13-1 SSC), which clinched its second straight SSC title last week, scored four runs in the first inning off two hits and three Eagle Point errors. Kendall, who was 2-for-2, and Kealii Cecil each came through with RBI singles.
Nick Hall's double off the wall scored Hayden Miller in the second and Kendall's solo shot, an opposite field blast to right, concluded the scoring in the third.
"We're just trying to go hard every day," Ashland's Lucas Stone said. "We have Mazama this weekend and really, it doesn't effect either team, but we're still going to go all out, try to get those two wins and end up 15-1 (in the SSC)."
The Eagles briefly threatened in their half of the third, but with two on and one out leadoff hitter Derek Tuttle grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
Kendall and Stone (2-for-3) led an Ashland offense that was held scoreless over the last four innings by Eagle Point relief pitcher Ben Zomerdyk. Eagles' starter Wade McCready gave up six hits and three earned runs in the first three innings.
Kendall set the tone early, striking out five of the first six batters he faced while cruising through the first two innings. He allowed three hits and walked one to remain undefeated (4-0).
"The mound was really dug in after McCready pitched so that was kind of hard to get used to, but I just tried to throw strikes," Kendall said. "I tell myself, 'Just throw strikes,' and that's something that I say in my head all the time."
Kendall's fastball, which tops out at 92 mph, is good enough to blow most batters away, but on Thursday he mixed in offspeed pitches in key situations. Ashland coach Don Senestraro, who calls every pitch from the dugout, said that's part of Kendall's evolution as a pitcher.
"We've worked on that," Senestraro said. "Speed is great, but if the hitter knows it's coming (they can hit it). We started a lot of hitters off with curve balls today and (Kendall) had great control of that, and he worked in his change-up that he found this summer that's just dynamite."
Eagle Point did manage a last-gasp rally in the sixth, putting runners on first and third with one out. It fizzled quickly though. Kendall struck out Brandon Hauser and coaxed a ground out to short by Timmy Zomerdyk.
Garrett Tygerson relieved Kendall in the seventh and retired the side in order, striking out two, to pick up the save.
Kendall's dominance allowed the Grizzlies to survive a rare off day by the top of its batting lineup. Ashland's first four batters were a combined 1-for-14 against McCready and Ben Zomerdyk, who both relied heavily on curves.
Ashland wraps up its SSC schedule at home Saturday against a Mazama team that's lost 13 games in a row. After that, the Grizzlies travel to Eugene for a nonconference game against Sheldon, a Class 6A program.
The Grizzlies host a first-round playoff game May 26 against an opponent to be determined.
A game between Ashland and Hidden Valley scheduled for Monday has been cancelled.
"We really wanted to play on Tuesday and Hidden Valley said it was all right if we wanted to find another game," Senestraro said of the switch. "(Sheldon) split with North (Medford) so I would think their up there (in the polls). Sheldon always runs a great program so they'll be ready and they'll play us tough, and that's what we're looking for."
Ashland 411 000 0 — 6 7 0
Eagle Point 000 000 0 — 0 3 4
McCready, B. Zomerdyk (4) and Hodgkins. Kendall, Tygerson (7) and L. Sebrell. W — Kendall (4-0). L — McCready. 2B — A: Hall, Miller. HR — A: Kendall (4).
Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org