MEDFORD — The South Medford Colts snatched a game, and a little control, from the Ashland Pilots Friday with a 4-3 victory in the second game of an Area 4 doubleheader at South Medford High School.
The Colts scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth then survived a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to earn the American Legion A split after the Pilots took the opener 16-3 in five innings.
The win leaves Ashland (10-11, 18-10 Area 4) one game behind Central Point (21-9, 19-9) with four league games to play. If Central Point wins out, the best Ashland can hope for is second place.
The league's top three teams advance to the state tournament, which begins July 29 in Eugene.
"In the whole scheme of things, it would have been really nice to sweep South," Ashland head coach Jeff Turner said. "We still control our own destiny and that's what we need to focus on. But it would have been good to get the sweep and push us that much further ahead than South."
After dominating the first game behind back-to-back home runs by Billy Hansen and Brent Hegdahl, Ashland lost two leads in the second game, including a 3-2 edge heading into the bottom of the sixth. South needed a hit and a walk against Ashland ace Brady Thomas in the game-winning rally. The tying run scored on Hegdahl's too-high throw to the plate, and the go-ahead run scored on another high throw, this time from right field.
"We just can't afford to have lapses like this in a second game," Turner said, pointing out that the Pilots have struggled in the second game of doubleheaders all season.
South Medford starter Cody Albertson earned the complete-game victory after holding the Pilots to two earned runs on six hits. Relying mostly on off-speed pitches, Albertson struck out seven and walked three.
Thomas (4-1) was good, too, striking out seven with a walk while allowing two earned runs on eight hits.
Ashland scored two runs to take the lead in the sixth. Sam Taylor tied the game with a bomb off the South Medford gym in left, and AJ Adams gave Ashland the lead when he sprinted home on an errant throw by South catcher Andrew Phillips.
Taylor had a chance to be the hero in the seventh when he came up with the bases juiced and two out, but this time Albertson induced a harmless pop-up to first base to end the game.
It was a fitting way for the Pilots to go down — Albertson kept Ashland off balance most of the way, and also escaped bases-loaded jams in the fourth and fifth.
"They made a big adjustment pitching wise," Turner said. "We were hitting the snot out of the fastballs in the first game and then their coach "… adjusted and (Albertson) threw a lot of off-speed to us and we just didn't adjust quick enough and had some pretty bad at bats. Just didn't get that timely hit that we needed."
The first game of the day was devoid of such drama. Ashland scored four runs in the first inning, seven in the fourth and ripped five extra-base hits to win easily.
Hansen was a beast, going 3-for-4 with five RBIs, including a two-run dinger in the first inning. Hegdahl was 2-for-3 with his second homer in two days and three RBIs and Ethan Schlecht was 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs.
Ashland starter Max Anderson struck out two and walked two in four strong innings.
Ashland hosts a nonconference doubleheader against Coos Bay on Monday before hosting a crucial twin bill against North Medford on Wednesday. Both are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at North Mountain Park.
"We're pretty close to the end," Turner said, "so if we take care of North Medford on Wednesday, I think we're good."
Ashland 413 71 — 16 10 2
South Meford 001 02 — 3 7 2
Anderson, Hansen (5) and Adams; Phillips, Wellock (4) and Mouios. W — Anderson (6-1). L — Phillips. 2B — A: Adams, Schlecht 2. HR — A: Hansen (1), Hegdahl (2).
Ashland 100 002 0 — 3 6 2
South Medford 001 102 x — 4 8 1
Thomas and Westhelle-Grant; Albertson and Phillips. W — Albertson. L — Thomas (4-1). 2B — A: Hegdahl; SM: Albertson. HR — A: Taylor (1).