A short trip to Harry David Field wound up being a long ride home for Ashland, as it dropped both sides of an American Legion A doubleheader to the South Medford Colts Monday night.
Strong pitching and timely hitting gave the Colts 17 runs on the evening while allowing Ashland only five tallies. South won the opener 7-3 and the second game 10-2.
South Medford pitcher, Mark Smith pitched well in a complete-game effort in Game 1. However, Ashland (17-5, 13-4 Area 4) was able to get on base early. They managed four hits in the first two innings, but got nothing to show for it. The Colts were more opportunistic.
They struck in the first inning with the benefit of only a double from second baseman Bo Walker. He would take third base on a wild pitch and score on a sacrifice grounder by John Adamson. The Colts (15-10, 11-7) would add two runs in each of the two following innings to open up a 5-0 lead.
An Ashland error with the bases loaded brought in South Medford's second run of the day, and Colt's center fielder Steve Lines brought in the third in the following at-bat. An A.J. Palazzolo double to left-center brought pitcher Smith home from first base in the third inning. Issac Rolie brought Palazzolo home with the next at-bat and by then, too much damage had been done.
Ashland did strike back in the fourth. A pair of South Medford errors set up a two-run double by center fielder Charlie Sebrell. The next batter, Max Gordon, brought Sebrell home with a grounder, but that would be the last of the cheers from Ashland's dugout in Game 1.
Smith retired eight of the last 10 batters he faced. The two who did reach base did so via an error on a ground ball and a batter was hit by a pitch. Seven of the eight outs were administered to consecutive batters. In his seven innings of work, Smith allowed one earned run on six hits with two walks and six strike outs.
Ashland pitcher Sam Gaviglio allowed two more runs in the sixth inning. Brandon Dollarhide scored on a Walker single and Smith brought Walker home two batters later to set the final score at 7-3. Gaviglio gave up seven runs on 11 hits and managed five strike outs to go with three walks in six innings.
South Medford assistant coach Scott Marshall was happy his team scored early against Gaviglio.
"We didn't know if we were going to score a lot of runs off of [Gaviglio]," Marshall said. "But we got some runs early and made it a little easier for Mark."
Palazzolo and Rolie led the Colt attack. Palazzolo went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs while Rolie went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Each player also drew a walk. Charlie Sebrell went 2-for-4 and brought home a pair for Ashland while Max Gordon batted 1-for-3 to go with an RBI and a walk.
Ashland bats continued to slump early in Game 2. South Medford pitcher Mitch Britton faced 11 batters before allowing a hit. However, batter No. 12, Owen Baldrica, scored Mathias Dean with a double to left field to tie the game at — through three innings.
Britton continued to pitch well, but a walk and a miscommunication between outfielders in the fourth inning set up a sacrifice fly by Sebrell to give Ashland a one-run lead. Sebrell was also Ashland's game-two pitcher and in the Colt's half of the inning, he gave that run back and more.
The inning started innocently enough with a groundout and a walk surrendered by Sebrell. But the next three batters reached base on singles, and South Medford took a 3-2 lead and never looked back.
After Adamson drew a walk to load the bases, a Sebrell wild pitch advanced the runners and scored a run. Colt catcher Mike Williamson then cleared the bases with a double, and he was brought home by the following batter to cement South Medford's lead at 8-2. A popout by the following batter would be the end of Sebrell's night on the mound.
Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said his pitcher was never really comfortable Monday night.
"He was complaining about the mound, didn't like the mound," Senestraro said. "Pitchers are finicky guys and this is the first time we've pitched on this mound in a long, long time. Usually Charlie is pretty good, throws a lot of strikes. Maybe just a bad game."
Ashland's Tyler Killeen worked the final two innings of the game. He walked the bases loaded in the fifth, and an error and wild pitch plated two more Medford runners. Killeen went on to strike out two batters in the sixth, and the final score would be 10-2.
Senestraro tipped his cap to the Colts after the game and is looking ahead to the squads next game against Crater.
"They pitched well tonight," Senestraro said. "They played much better than the last time we played them. They just played better than us tonight. I didn't have them prepared, ready to play. We'll play better on Wednesday. ... These are the first bad games we've had in awhile. That's what we kind of chalked it up to. Mom said we were going to have a bad day. This is our bad day I hope. We've got a good team here and we'll be all right. I'm not worried about it."
Colt's coach Marshall is happy with his team's progression and hints there may be something to this rivalry of proximity.
"We're starting to figure it out little by little here," he said. "We've got a young team. It was good beating Ashland. They beat us the first two games over there at their place so it was nice to get two with them tonight. We beat two good pitchers in Gaviglio and Sebrell. They've got a good group, Ashland, and it's nice to get a win against those guys. We needed it."
Pilots grounded in road losses to South Medford