ASHLAND — A bright start to the Grizzlies’ Midwestern League opener had a dampened kind of finish to it.
And that’s not just because of the late-afternoon rain at North Mountain Field.
What was a 1-1 stalemate after nine innings turned out to be anything but that following the completion of 10, as Marist scored six runs in the top of the 10th inning to claim a 7-1 win over Ashland on Tuesday.
“The bottom line is when you wait around, you wait around and don’t take advantage of opportunities, any good team team is going to take advantage of it,” Ashland head coach Nick Hall said. “That’s what we ended up doing, going 10 innings when we had chances earlier on and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Missed opportunities and the Spartans’ big 10th inning spoiled what was a close game from the onset.
The Grizzlies (0-3 overall, 0-1 MWL), however, had chances to go ahead in the middle and late innings, stranding at least one runner in scoring position in the third, fourth, fifth and eighth.
In total, Ashland left nine runners on in the game.
“When you’re a team like us who doesn’t necessarily have a bunch of offensive firepower, we have to take advantage of those situations,” said Hall, whose team recorded just two hits in the game. “To our credit, we didn’t really fold after them. We kept coming back, kept coming back, but it does take its toll when you don’t get those guys in time after time.”
It came back to bite Ashland in 10th and final inning.
Marist (1-1, 1-0) sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the 10th, with its only lead of the day coming in the final inning of play.
First baseman John Over drove in what proved to be the game-winning run with an RBI single to center field, going down to get an offering from Ashland reliever Eli Westrick. Second baseman Ryan Kirk also recorded a run-scoring single and Sonny Hiday — who started the game on the mound for Marist and struck out eight in five innings of work — drew a bases-loaded walk to put Marist ahead 3-1.
Kirk also scored on a wild pitch, while Tyler Madden provided a two-run pinch-hit single to cap the inning.
The 10th inning proved to be the only time the Spartans’ at-bats truly came alive in the game.
That had a lot to do with the job that starting pitcher Evan McLennan and Westrick did in the first nine innings.
McLennan gave himself a 1-0 lead to work with in the bottom of the first thanks to a booming double to the fence in right field that brought in Eli Westrick, who got on with a one-out walk.
Marist tied the game a half-inning later when Michael Hopkings hit a single to center field.
But other than the one run, McLennan was throwing up zero after zero.
McLennan went five strong innings and allowed just two hits and an unearned run. He finished with five strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter.
“He was getting ahead of batters, he was mixing his pitches, his was using that velocity,” Hall said. “That’s really what we kind of expect out of him. Hopefully, once he gets in his groove, he can give us five or six strong every time he goes out there. That’s what he’s capable of, for sure.”
Ashland and Marist face one another again on Saturday in doubleheader at 1 p.m. in Eugene.
“If you can be happy with a loss, this is one of those because we did a lot of good things today,” Hall said. “This (effort) is huge for us because we need to get that confidence to know that we belong. My point (to the team) was that if we play great defense and execute our pitches, we can compete with anybody. We didn’t do that the first two games, but we did that today and we ended up going 10 innings and almost winning the thing.”
Marist 010 000 000 6 — 7 7 1
Ashland 100 000 000 0 — 1 2 2
Hiday, Bloom (6), Bullock (10) and Hopkins; McLennan, Westrick (6), Buccino and Evans. W — Bloom. L — Westrick. 2B — McLennan (A)
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.