Thomas, Grizzlies blow past Tornado

MEDFORD — Overmatched. Overpowered. Overwhelmed.

Yup, Ashland played North Medford on Thursday. Only this time, it was the Grizzlies doing the bullying.

Brady Thomas pitched a two-hit shutout and Ashland took advantage of three costly errors by the Black Tornado to score a 6-0 nonleague victory Thursday at North Medford High School.

Thomas struck out 10 with two walks to improve to 5-0, helping Ashland (12-1) roll to its sixth straight win and second over a 6A school this season.

Ashland's third straight road victory came one year after North Medford paid a visit to North Mountain Park and pounded the Grizzlies 8-0. On Thursday, Ashland enjoyed a little role reversal, with Thomas playing the part of Matt Maurer, the former North Medford ace who no-hit the Grizzlies in 2010.

"Let's be honest, coming into Medford it's always a rivalry," Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said. "And like (assistant coach Charlie Hall) said, when people open the paper tomorrow and see an Ashland team beat a Medford team, they feel good. And the kids feel good right now.

"Most of the time we have a tough time even competing in athletics with them. So to get a win from a great program, I'm very happy for my boys."

North Medford senior pitcher William Kunkle was tagged with the loss, surrendering three unearned runs on four hits in four innings for the Black Tornado (6-7).

The Grizzlies scored the only run they would need on Wes Hitchko's RBI ground out to short in the second, then added two unearned insurance runs in the third on a Billy Hansen single, an error and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.

With Thomas rolling the Grizzlies put the game out of reach in the fifth. That's when North Medford catcher Cory Pine fielded a sacrifice bunt by Brent Hegdahl and threw it over Jared White's head at first base, allowing two more Grizzlies to score. Hegdahl motored all the way to third on the play and scored the final run moments later on a single by Jake Scarminach.

Hegdahl's successful sacrifice bunt — the base-runners easily advanced before the Pine's wayward throw — was the third of the day for the Grizzlies, who effectively small-balled the Tornado, advancing runners to at least second base in each of the first five innings.

"I've told them since the first day of practice," Senestraro said, "'I don't care if you're the one through nine hitter, if I have men on first and second I'm bunting.' It's just good baseball."

North Medford had runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings but couldn't cash in. Its best chance to rattle Ashland came in the fourth, when Charlie Walker drew a walk and Hayden Evans was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with one out. Thomas doused the threat with consecutive strikeouts, overpowering North Medford freshmen Micah Brown and David Crofton.

"This is one of the best performances I've had, especially since everything was working," Thomas said. "The curve ball was money, the velocity was up, the arm felt good. It was a great day."

Ashland junior Billy Hansen was the only player in the game with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with a double. He also scored twice. Hitchko was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base.

North Medford junior second baseman Charlie Walker was 1-for-2 with a walk, and also played a part in two Tornado double plays.

Ashland's defense made the few plays it had to in a solid, if not spectacular error-free day.

"The keys have definitely been our pitching and our defense," Hitchko said. "We've been playing great defense."

Ashland 012 030 0 — 6 7 0

North Medford 000 000 0 — 0 2 3

Thomas and Scarminach; Kunkle, Miller (5), Walker (7) and Pine. W — Thomas (5-0). L — Kunkle (0-1). 2B — A: Hansen.

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