Pilots heading north

Ashland Pilots baseball qualified for the American Legion Oregon State Playoffs with a hard-fought 6-3 win over Roseburg-Pepsi at North Mountain Park on Sunday evening.

Winning the seesaw battle sends the Pilots to Beaverton for the double-elimination tournament that starts Thursday.

Ashland pitcher Charlie Sebrell never gave up much throughout the game, but an opportunistic Roseburg squad managed a run in the top of the first inning. A blooper to left field by Bo Yonker scored Johnny Farrington for the early 1-0 lead.

Ashland replied very quickly. On Roseburg pitcher Matt Thompson's first toss of the game, Pilots lead-off man Ian Kendall sent the ball deep, over the left-field fence to knot the contest at 1. Kendall said after the game that Thompson simply threw what he expected.

"I was just looking for a fastball and I got the pitch that I wanted," Kendall said. "I just swung at the fence. I was feeling really good."

Thompson settled in after that and proceeded to retire the next six Ashland batters.

Sebrell followed suit on the mound, but an error in the third inning allowed Roseburg to play some small ball to retake the lead. Vince Ampi reached base on the error and a sacrifice bunt followed by a sacrifice fly by Jered Stoffal brought the run home to give Roseburg the 2-1 lead.

The Pilots, once again, wasted no time responding. Hayden Miller led off the bottom of the third with a line drive double to the left field fence. Charlie Sebrell then reached on an error and the wheels were in motion. Two batters later, Lewis Sebrell smacked a single to bring home Miller and tie the game. After walking Garrett Tygerson, Thompson was called for a balk, allowing Lewis Sebrell to trot home and Tygerson to second. Later in the at-bat, Owen Baldrica hit a pop fly that appeared it would end the inning, but second baseman Stoffal lost the ball in the sun, allowing Tygerson to score. The pair of Roseburg errors left Ashland in the lead 4-2 by inning's end, and the Pilots would never look back.

Roseburg did make a surge in the fifth inning. Yonker brought Farrington home for the second time of the game with a single to left field. Yonker later stole second base and the throw to nab him went to the outfield, allowing the runner third base. With only one out, it appeared Roseburg would at least tie the game, but Charlie Sebrell buckled down and got out of the inning with a strikeout and a full-count fly ball to center field.

Pilots coach Don Senestraro said after the game that he wasn't sure at the time if Sebrell had anything left in the tank.

"He might have been a little sore," said Senestraro. "He just finished (the) Pacific Rim Bowl as a safety and wide receiver, so he was a little sore coming in... I was thinking about pulling him. He was having a tough time spotting his pitches and I started warming up (Tyler) Killeen and Tygerson. But he manned up and took care of business. He did a good job."

The Pilots struck again in the bottom of the fifth. Lewis Sebrell led off with a single and he was followed by Tygerson who ripped a triple to the center field fence. Sebrell's run would be the end of Thompson's night on the mound.

New pitcher, left-hander Junior Hernandez was strong at first, retiring his first two batters. But he then walked the next three Pilots. The third walk plated Tygerson.

Charlie Sebrell shut the opposition down for the final two innings. He retired the last eight Roseburg batters of the night and the Pilots sailed to the 6-3 victory.

Sebrell allowed two earned runs on six hits in his seven innings pitched. He struck out five and walked two. He said after the game that he just needed some time to get completely comfortable on the mound.

"My first two innings are usually just kind of warm-up innings," said Sebrell. "I just started getting a rhythm and I knew that what they brought to the table, we could definitely beat this team. The defense was good and I just found my groove and went from there."

Kendall's solo homer was his lone hit of the game. Tygerson's RBI triple was his only hit as well, but he also managed a pair of walks. Lewis Sebrell went 2-4 at the plate with an RBI.

Roseburg's Thompson gave up five earned runs on six hits in his four innings of work. He struck out three and walked three. Mike Murphy pitched the final 1-1/3 inning for Roseburg. He struck out two and walked one while not allowing a hit. Yonker went 2-3 at the dish with two RBI.

Senestraro was pleased at how his team stacked up against such a quality opponent.

"We played well and hit the ball timely and played fairly good defense and that's the key to winning," Senestraro said. "They always put a good product on the field so we knew it wasn't going to be a cake-walk."

The cake-walks are probably done for the year. Heading into the state tournament in Beaverton, Senestraro believes his squad has what it takes to move on to the regional tournament in Anchorage, Alaska, but admits they will need some luck along the way.

"Baseball is a funny sport," he said. "Anything can happen. We could go up there and go two-and-out or we could win the whole thing. We've got great kids who love to compete and we're not going up there expecting to lose, that's for sure. We're going to play the best we can up there and represent Ashland the best we can."

Charlie Sebrell knows he and many of his teammates have experienced the kind of pressure that will come with the playoff atmosphere.

"My class in Babe Ruth, we won state and went to regionals," said Sebrell. "We just have good chemistry on our team and everyone's just solid. We've got the pitching. We've got hitting. If we just get the timely hitting, we could go far. I just love my team. If we just stay together, we'll be good."

The team doesn't now yet who they will face next, but the game will take place Thursday at roughly 4 p.m.

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