Pilots bury Diggers in Legion sweep

The Ashland Pilots jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the opener, fought off a comeback attempt then cruised in the second game to earn an American Legion A doubleheader sweep over the Grants Pass Diggers Wednesday at North Mountain Park.

Ethan Schlecht and Brady Thomas had two hits apiece and drove in three runs to help the Pilots take the first game 12-10, and Thomas pitched a three-hitter in the mercy rule-shortened nightcap, which Ashland won 13-3 in five innings.

The Zone 4 wins improved the Pilots to 3-1 after Monday's season-opening split with Klamath Falls.

"I think the rust is starting to finally come off with some of my guys," Ashland head coach Jeff Turner said. "The errors on Monday were pretty atrocious and we actually had a few errors in the first game (Wednesday) that allowed them to get to 10 runs. We're starting to minimize those. The hitting's coming around. We're getting there."

In the opener, Ashland wasn't tagged with an error but committed "several mental errors," according to Turner. Grants Pass took advantage, charging back from deficits of 7-1 and 10-5 to put the tying run on base in both the sixth and seventh innings. The Pilots buckled down both times, with Jamie Flynn pitching his way out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth and Thomas surviving a two-on, one-out scare in the seventh.

Schlecht picked up the win despite surrendering seven runs on seven hits in the first four innings. He struck out seven Diggers and walked four.

Schlecht helped his cause at the plate, going 2-for-4, including a two-run single in the third that proved crucial.

Also for Ashland, Evan Westhelle-Grant went 2-for-3 with a double and scored twice, Billy Hansen went 2-for-3 and scored three runs and Thomas belted a double.

Game 2 started off as a more competitive game until Ashland, the three-time defending Zone 4 regular season champions, scored seven runs on three hits in the fourth to break the game open. Taylor Humphrey and Thomas each came through with RBI singles to help the Pilots break away. A combined five walks issued by Grants Pass starter Austin Beard and his replacement, Ian Green, also helped.

Thomas gave up three hits and three runs, one earned, to earn his first victory of the season. He struck out nine with one walk.

"(Thomas) struggled a little with the mound at first, but once he got to where he felt comfortable he was fine," Turner said. "He's definitely going to be a workhorse for us and throw a ton of innings."

Leading the Pilots at the plate were Hansen and Humphrey. Hansen went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and his run-scoring single clinched the win for Ashland in the bottom of the fifth. Humphrey went 2-for-3 with two stolen bases and two RBIs and also scored twice.

Ashland now braces for its first road trip of the season Friday at Eagle Point. Game 1 of the doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at The Yard.


Grants Pass 014 022 1 — 10 11 2

Ashland 253 011 x — 12 13 0

Bennett, Green (4) and Ingledue, Leenknecht (3), Beida (6); Schlecht, Flynn (5), Thomas (7) and Westhelle-Grant. W — Schlecht (1-0). L — Bennet. S — Thomas (1). 2B — GP: Miller, Cantiello, Nordbeck; A: Thomas, Westhelle-Grant. HR — GP: Nordbeck.


Grants Pass 120 00 — 3 3 3

Ashland 120 73 — 13 8 2

Beard, Martin (4) and Mathews; Thomas and Adams. W — Thomas (1-0). L — Beard. 2B — GP: Miller.

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