Pilots beat North Eugene to keep state title hopes alive

Max Anderson delivered one of his best pitching performances of the season and his teammates provided plenty of support as the Ashland Pilots beat host North Eugene 6-0 to stay alive in the American Legion A State Tournament Friday at Swede Johnson Stadium in Eugene.

The victory advances the Pilots (27-12), who lost a first-round game Thursday, to the second round of the loser's bracket, where they will play Area 4 rival Central Point at noon today in another loser-out game. Ashland and Central Point split their season series 2-2, but Pilots' head coach Jeff Turner is confident heading into the rubber game.

"I think we match up pretty well, actually, especially pitching-depth wise," he said. "I think we have a deeper staff than they do."

Turner added that Ethan Schlecht will start on the mound today for Ashland.

For inspiration, Schlecht need only look across his own dugout. With the season on the line, Anderson delivered a gem for the Pilots, holding North Eugene to five hits and earning the complete-game shutout on just 79 pitches. He struck out four and walked one, using precision instead of power to hold the host team in check.

"He pitched great," Turner said of Anderson, a junior-to-be at Ashland High. "He just kept them off balance with his curve ball and worked in and out and was able to get ground balls. He kept the ball right around the knees the whole game, so it was good to see."

Ashland scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first when Brent Hegdahl and Schlecht came through with back-to-back RBI singles. Both hits squirted through the infield to give the Pilots an early 2-0 cushion.

Schlecht scored on a passed ball in the third to make it 3-0, and drove home another run in the fourth as part of another two-run rally.

Schlecht went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Ashland leadoff hitter Taylor Humphrey went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored twice. The Pilots also got a lift from AJ Adams, who went 2-for-3 and scored a run.

Erik Long went 3-for-3 at the plate with a double to lead North Eugene. He also pitched three innings of relief, surrendering three runs on seven hits.

North Eugene starter Michael Phillips allowed three runs on two hits in the first three innings. He had three strikeouts and three walks, and couldn't overcome two costly errors that led to Ashland's first two runs.

A day after La Grande held Ashland to one run on four hits the Pilots returned to their hard-hitting ways.

"They came out with an aggressive attitude and it showed with them getting nine hits on the board," Turner said. "When we saw fastball we attacked it (Friday), and it worked to our advantage."

Turner said the win-or-go-home scenario seemed to give the Pilots a boost.

"We could tell going in," he said, "that they had a confidence about them that they were going to win."

North Eugene 000 000 0 — 0 5 3

Ashland 201 210 x — 6 9 0

Phillips, Long (4) and Spapley; Anderson and Westhelle-Grant. W — Anderson. L — Phillips. 2B — NE: Long; A: Humphrey.

North Coos 7, Central Point 1

At Eugene, Corey Wynant went 2-for-4 with an RBI in a loss to North Coos at the American Legion A state tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium.

Juan Cortez and Andrew Tracy both doubled for the Comets, who had seven hits.

North Coos 000 403 0 — 7 5 1

Central Point 000 000 1 — 1 7 6

Aurdahl and Iveans; Cortez, Williams (7) and Macuk. W — Aurdahl. L — Cortez. 2B — NC: Love; CP: Tracy, Cortez.

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