Just when it looked like the Ashland Pilots might be making their latest comeback bid in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader at North Mountain Park, things got away from them.
Not necessarily in a hurry, either.
A long and laborious top of the fourth inning saw a 3-2 ballgame turn into anything but that. The Klamath Falls Cardinals sent 13 batters to the plate and took advantage of five Ashland walks and two errors in a seven-run inning en route to a 14-2 win over the Pilots in six innings.
“We just couldn’t throw strikes,” Ashland head coach Oz Sailors said. “When you give a team that can hit a little bit of extra chances, extra outs, they’re going to make it hurt — and (Klamath Falls) did. We were down by 1, it’s still a ballgame, they have a big inning and they kinda rolled from there.”
Ashland (8-16 overall, 7-11 league), however, took out a little opening-game anger out in the second game of the twin bill, flipping the script and recording a 17-3 blowout win over the Cardinals to split the doubleheader and snap a four-game losing skid.
Dillan Anway threw a complete-game five-hitter on the mound, while Luke Brown went 3-for-3 with a double and a triple at the plate to lead a Pilots offense that scored 11 runs in the bottom of the third inning and finished with 11 hits in the game.
The Pilots continue their six-game homestand to conclude the 2018 regular season with a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon against the South Medford Colts. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at North Mountain Park.
“We need to not give people extra outs,” Sailors said as the biggest key for her team entering the final set of games this summer. “I think when it’s a freebie war and you give teams freebies, extra outs and extra base runners, especially at this level, they’re going to take advantage of it. If we don’t do that, if we make fundamental baseball plays, that’s been the great games that we’ve played.”
Sailors, a former pitcher in college at the NCAA Division III level, knows better than anybody just how important continuously throwing strikes can be.
In the opener, Ashland walked a total of 11 batters and only had one 1-2-3 inning.
The Pilots’ struggles to throw strikes came to a head in the top of the fourth, as the Cardinals recorded just four hits in the seven-run outburst.
And, just to add insult to injury, all of Klamath Falls’ runs came with two outs after a nicely turned double play started by shortstop Eli Westrick eliminated a leadoff walk.
The Cardinals scored their first five runs in the inning without a hit, as runners came in on a bases-loaded walk by relief pitcher Michael Nixon, a passed ball and a wild pitch before an Ashland two-run error made the score 8-2. Run-scoring singles from Zecheriah Gibson and Jagger Graham capped off the inning.
Klamath Falls — which swept Ashland in a doubleheader, 3-2 and 17-11, two days earlier — scored its final four runs of the game on Austin Erickson booming grand slam to right field.
“As a pitcher, you give up a hit, you tip your cap to them. But there’s no defense for a walk,” Sailors said. “You have errors, you have walks, then that hit’s going to come and now it’s going to hurt. But if take care fo the baseball and they hit a shot off the fence, that’s all it is, just a base runner. You being able to minimize that damage against a team that can hit is really big.”
Klamath Falls jumped out a 2-0 lead in the top of the second on Gibson’s first RBI single and a balk by Brown, who got the start on the mound and threw the first three innings.
But Ashland tied it a half-inning later, as designated hitter Miles Ranswieler hit a blooper into right field for an RBI single to cut the deficit in half. Anway, the very next batter at the bottom of the Pilots’ lineup, laid down a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt to bring home Nathan Carter.
Carter and Brown, who have been hitting in the heart of the Pilots’ order all summer, combined to record five of their team’s seven hits in the opener and accounted for both of Ashland’s runs scored. Carter had three of those hits, including a second-inning double after Brown led off the inning with a single.
Monteith and Graham; Brown, Nixon (4), Amann (4), Ranswieler (6) and Evans. W — Monteith. L — Brown. 2B — KF: Gibson, Erickson, Negarry; A: Westrick, Carter. HR — KF: Erickson.
Howard, Monteith (3), Roth (4) and Graham; Anway and Evans. W — Anway. L — x. 2B — KF: Gibson; A: Brown, Evans. 3B — A: Brown.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.