La Grande knocks Ashland into loser's bracket at state

La Grande pitchers Carson Miller and Austin Woodward limited the Ashland Pilots to one run on four hits as the Subway A's edged the Pilots 2-1 in the first round of the American Legion A state tournament Thursday afternoon at Swede Johnson Stadium in Eugene.

The loss drops Ashland into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination, eight-team tournament. The Pilots tonight will play tourney host North Eugene in a loser-out game that's scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

Miller started for the Subway A's and pitched four solid innings, giving up only one unearned run in the second, before Woodward escaped three jams to pick up the win.

Ashland (26-12) had runners at first and second with one out in the top of the seventh before Woodward coaxed Evan Westhelle into a 6-4-3 game-clinching double play. It was a fitting way for the game to end — Ashland stranded 10 base runners, including seven in the final three innings.

"We had a couple balls that were hit right at people," Ashland head coach Jeff Turner said. "But that was some of the toughest pitching we've seen all summer. They kept us off balance and we just didn't have any two-out hits that we've kind of become accustomed to getting."

Ashland, the designated road team, scored first on a bases-loaded error in the second. Thomas scored to put Ashland ahead 1-0, but La Grande got out of the inning when Westhelle-Grant was gunned down trying to make it a two-run game.

"It was a bang-bang play," Turner said, "Perfect throw and perfect catch."

La Grande got it back in the bottom of the inning when Tyler Aldrich scored on Andrew Fullerton's bloop single.

La Grande took the lead in the fifth when Eric Jacobs, who reached on an error, scored on a double by Woodward.

Aldrich was the only player in the game with more than one hit. He went 2-for-3 with a double.

Ashland was led by Thomas, who suffered his first loss of the summer despite pitching a gem: five strikeouts, two walks, and one earned run on five hits in six innings.

"He pitched well enough to get a win (Thursday) for sure," Turner said.

For La Grande, Miller struck out three and issued five walks in four innings, allowing just one hit. Woodward struck out two and walked three while giving up three hits in three innings of work.

Ashland now faces a daunting task. In order to win the tournament and advance to regionals for the third time in four years, the Pilots must win five straight loser-out contests.

"I think they're fine," Turner said of his team's mental toughness. "I think they understood what happened. They understand that they need to come out and get after it in order to stay in the tournament."

Ashland 010 000 0 — 1 4 1

La Grande 010 010 x — 2 5 1

Thomas and Adams; Miller, Woodward (5) and Arnolls. W — Woodward. L — Thomas. 2B — L: Woodward, Aldrich.

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