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ASHLAND — The Ashland Grizzlies are headed back to the Class 5A state quarterfinals, where a familiar foe will be waiting for them.
Ashland chased Dallas ace Logan Hatley with a five-run second inning and Steen Fredrickson and Tommy Hulick tossed a combined four-hitter as the Grizzlies beat Dallas 8-2 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs on Wednesday at North Mountain Park.
The win advances the Grizzlies to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012, when Sherwood ousted Ashland in a nine-inning thriller at Wilsonville High School. This time, the Grizzlies and Bowmen will settle things in Ashland, where the Grizzlies (20-8) are 10-3 this season.
"The guys were pretty excited, and I think they're looking forward to playing Sherwood," said Ashland coach John Wallace, who was an assistant in 2012. "I'm just proud of the way we came out early and got the win. I told them, the hardest game to win in the playoffs is the first one — you're excited, you're nervous. I'm glad we got that one out of the way."
The Grizzlies already led 1-0 when they broke the game open in the second, scoring five runs on four hits, two errors, two balks and a hit batter. It was a disastrous inning all around for the visiting Dragons (16-12), who quickly recorded the first two outs but booted a chance to get the third before the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion. And it all occurred with their ace, Hatley, on the mound, fresh off a 16-strikeout performance in the play-in round last Friday.
Ashland made Dallas pay for its miscues in the second. Fredrickson and Eric Carlson delivered back-to-back run-scoring hits — Carlson's was a triple to deep left — to build Ashland's lead to 4-0. Another run came home on a misplayed grounder, and Kyle Milgram's RBI single marked the end of Hatley's day.
Hatley's final line: 12/3 innings pitched, six runs, five earned, on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
"I think (Hatley) was a little tired," Wallace said. "He wasn't locating his fastball great and he relied on his curveball a lot. We did a good job adjusting, laying off the ones he put in the dirt. Once we started laying off those we were able to get some better fastballs and offspeed pitches to hit."
That made life a little easier for Fredrickson (6-5), who held the Dragons to two runs, one earned, on three hits before being pulled with one out in the fifth. He had seven strikeouts and four walks. Hulick smothered any Dallas comeback hopes, striking out three and giving up only one hit over the last 22/3.
"(Fredrickson) gave us a quality start," Wallace said. "He didn't have his best stuff, but he competed. Then (Hulick) came in and did a great job shutting the door."
Dallas did break through for two runs in the third, taking advantage of Jackson Taylor's leadoff double, an error by Fredrickson and a wild pitch.
But the Grizzlies got one back in the fourth on an error and another in the fifth thanks to another miscue to keep their distance.
The Grizzlies scored the first run of the game when Aaron Scott singled to open the bottom of the first, was bunted to second by Fredrickson, advanced to third on a walk and scored on a passed ball.
Fredrickson cruised through the first four innings before walking Taylor to lead off the fifth. Taylor was gunned down at second by Ashland catcher Carter Glick, but Fredrickson walked Seth Fast next and quickly fell behind 2-0 to Ryan Spencer to get the hook.
Hulick, a senior righty, did his job. He struck out Spencer and induced a groundout to get out of the fifth, escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth unscathed then retired the side in order in the seventh. He struck out Dallas No. 2 hitter Ryan Spencer to secure Ashland's first playoff win in two years.
Now, the Grizzlies have one last shot at avenging that 2012 heartbreaker — not to mention a handful of losses to the Bowmen in other sports — before Sherwood moves up to compete at the Class 6A level next fall.
Several current Grizzlies played in that elite eight game two years ago, which the Bowmen won in the bottom of the ninth when a batter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. But the fourth-seeded Grizzlies will host the fifth-seeded Bowmen (22-6) this time, and the game has been scheduled for 2 p.m. so that the six Ashland seniors can attend graduation.
"I remember that (2012) game and that was a tough one to lose," Wallace said. "I know there's been a rivalry built up and that Sherwood's pretty much got the better of us. They're always a good squad, and you know they're going to be disciplined and fundamentally sound. I'm expecting a tough game."
Dallas 002 000 0 — 2 4 5
Ashland 150 110 x — 8 8 2
Hatley, Weaver (2) and Guenther; Fredrickson, Hulick (5) and Glick. W — Fredrickson (6-5). L — Hatley. 2B — A: Carlson, Taylor. 3B — A: Carlson.
Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org