With Sam Gaviglio at the plate and the Grizzlies down to their last out, Ashland's Max Gordon thought his team needed a little extra help.
"I literally prayed to God that last pitch," Gordon said. "I said, 'God, we need you right now.' And he came through, big time." Gaviglio also came through. Big time.
Ashland's senior pitcher delivered a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the seventh then retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning as the Grizzlies stunned North Eugene 5-4 in the OSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals Friday at Swede Johnson Stadium.
Ashland's 19th win in a row advances the fourth-ranked Grizzlies (26-2) to the semifinals for the second year in a row. They'll host eighth-ranked Pendleton (20-7) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday for the right to play in the 5A state championship game at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
That didn't seem possible heading into the seventh against the Highlanders, who held Ashland scoreless in the three previous innings behind clutch defense and a little luck.
Facing North Eugene relief pitcher Garrett Mills, Ashland's Lewis Sebrell started the game-winning rally with a leadoff single through the left side of the infield. The Grizzlies then caught a break when Owen Baldrica was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count. That brought up cleanup hitter Luke Jannusch, who laid down the sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with one out.
Garrett Tygerson was in position to save the Grizzlies himself when Mills' next two pitches were balls, but Tygerson grounded out to short, pushing the Grizzlies to within an out of elimination.
Enter Gaviglio, who was 0-for-3 heading into the fateful at-bat.
"I just didn't want it to be my last at-bat of the season and I didn't want to end it for my team," he said.
Gaviglio took the first pitch for a strike, then crushed Mills' second offering to straightaway center field.
"I was jumping in the air, just yelling, 'Get out, get out,'" Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said.
It did, clearing the "390" feet sign with room to spare.
"At that point, I was like, 'We got the game &
there's no way we're going to lose it,'" said Ashland shortstop Owen Baldrica, who had a bomb of his own in the third to give the Grizzlies a shortlived 2-1 lead.
After Gaviglio's homer Ashland missed an opportunity to pick up some insurance runs when Ian Kendall was thrown out at home while trying to score on Hayden Miller's single. The easy tag out at the plate was the second of the day for the Highlander. Later, Senestraro took the blame for being too aggressive with his base runners.
"I thanked the team for saving my life," he said. "I didn't coach a good game tonight and I should have done better. What a resilient group of kids."
In the bottom of the seventh, facing North Eugene's 2-3-4 batters, Gaviglio struck out Ben Demoss, coaxed a weak line-out from Scott Womack then K'd Brandon Saboe.
That ended the season for North Eugene (15-13), which shocked third-ranked Corvallis on Tuesday, 1-0 in 10 innings.
"I told them great job," Highlanders' head coach Corey Nicholsen said. "We did everything we had to do to be in position to win the game and they got a big hit. We didn't give it to them; they took it. That happens sometimes." North Eugene scored first when Demoss came home on Charlie Sebrell's throwing error. Sebrell pitched the first five innings for the Grizzlies, allowing six hits while striking out six. He also hit two batters and struggled at times with his control after trying to come back from a bout with a stomach flu and strep throat.
Gordon's RBI single tied the game at 1-1 in the second and Baldrica's homer made it 2-1, but the Highlanders came right back in the bottom of the inning by scoring two runs on two hits, including an RBI double by JR Haase.
Womack pitched the first four innings for the Highlanders, holding Ashland to two runs on five hits.
North added an insurance run in the fifth on a Mills bunt that scored Saboe from third.
Back to back hits by Miller and Nick Hall loaded the bases for Ashland in the sixth, but the Grizzlies failed to cash in when Gordon, who was 3-for-4, grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 double play.
"We hit the ball well and we weren't lucky the first six innings," Senestraro said, "but our luck came in that seventh inning."
Ashland — — 011 — 000 — &
— 5 — 10 2
North Eugene 102 — 010 — x &
— 4 — 6 — 1
C. Sebrell, Gaviglio (6) and L. Sebrell. Womack, Mills (5) and Bibbee. W &
Gaviglio (11-0). L &
Mills. 2B &
A: Gordon; NE: Haase, Saboe. HR &
A: Baldrica, Gaviglio.
Gavliglio lifts Grizzlies into quarterfinals