Ashland’s volleyball program had quite a run brewing from 2005-09, securing top-four state trophies in all five seasons.
CENTRAL POINT — For those baseball pitchers looking for a break in the lineup, Crater proved once again on Thursday night that no such favors will be given this season.
Taking full advantage of its deep squad, the Comets secured their fifth straight victory and an undefeated run in the Crater Spring Break Classic with a 12-2, five-inning victory over Marist at Anhorn Field.
While the top of the order typically is where most teams make the most noise, the bottom half of Crater's lineup was rowdy and ready for the team's fifth game in six days. The Comets' Nos. 6-9 hitters combined to go 6-for-11 with five runs and nine RBIs.
"We've been hitting the ball well throughout the lineup," said Crater head coach Jay Campbell, whose team moved to 6-1 overall. "We've actually moved some guys and tried new lineups and it's been the same. It doesn't surprise me. I think one through nine, any of those kids can get it done."
Junior designated hitter Taylor Tibbets paved the way by going 2-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs in the sixth spot. His two-run single in the third inning put the Comets ahead for good, and he added a sharp two-run double down the left-field line one inning later.
Crater's No. 7 hitter, junior catcher Tyler Aplin, was 2-for-2 with a triple and a double to go with two runs and one RBI. In the eighth spot, senior second baseman Taylor Pardee going 1-for-3 with one run and two RBIs. At No. 9, junior right fielder Tanner Ryerson was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
After scoring 10 runs over the third and fourth innings, the Comets closed the game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule when leadoff batter Paul Turner reached on an error, moved to third on walks to Evan Erskine and Ty Fox and scored with two outs when Blake Fahndrich was hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count.
As anticlimactic as the ending was, Marist (3-5) tried to put a scare in the host Comets with a two-run third inning that gave the Spartans a short-lived, 2-1 advantage under rainy conditions. Dustyn Smith supplied a sacrifice fly for one of the runs, while Cameron Jack stole third and then came into score when Aplin's throw glanced off the glove of third baseman Lane Ullom and wasn't retrieved in time for a play at the plate.
Marist starter Grant Wonham managed to get the first two outs of the third inning, but the Comets simply wouldn't be denied after that as the next seven batters reached safely.
"That's what we're capable of doing if we just have a good approach at the plate," said Campbell of the six-run outburst. "The kids are working hard and they did a lot of work out here this week on the field so I think we were a little sluggish there to start, but they responded well. We gave up a couple runs and they kinda came back out and showed that wasn't going to fly for very long."
Senior first baseman Anthony Martin got the surge going when he was hit by a pitch, and cleanup hitter Fox singled to center field to put runners on the corners. After Fahndrich was walked to load the bases, Tibbets came through with his hot shot by third baseman Matt Haney to put Crater back up 3-2.
Aplin walked to load the bases again and then Pardee flared a ball that dropped between the sliding efforts of left fielder Darren Nelson and the shortstop Jack for a two-run double as both players were shaken up on the play. Ryerson followed with a soft liner that fell just out of the grasp of charging center fielder Travis Walcott for two more runs and a 7-2 lead.
Those runs were more than enough for Fox, who improved to 2-0 by tossing a three-hitter. The junior right-hander finished with four strikeouts against five walks and was assisted by Aplin, who picked off a runner at third to halt a second-inning threat.
"He showed signs of being pretty tough," Campbell said of Fox. "He had some control issues it looked like tonight, but it's still early in the year and that's only his second outing. I was happy with the velocity, and at times he threw some real good pitches in critical situations."
Marist 002 00 — 2 3 2
Crater 106 41 — 12 9 2
Wonham, Stewart (4), Haney (5) and Hutson, Jablonski (5); Fox and Aplin. W — Fox (2-0). L — Wonham. 2B — C: Aplin, Pardee, Tibbets. 3B — C: Aplin.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry