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Grizzlies fall to North Medford for second loss to open season

ASHLAND — For the second time within a 24-hour period, the young Grizzlies saw what facing Class 6A opposition has to offer.

They also saw how quickly a game can turn, too.

After holding a one-run lead early, North Medford scored five runs combined in the fourth and fifth innings to pull away and record an 8-1 win over Ashland at North Mountain Park on Thursday evening.

Ashland recorded just one hit in the game against North Medford starter Brandon King, who struck out three in six innings.

“What we talked about after the game was being prepared to play at the level we want,” Ashland head coach Nick Hall said. “A lot of (pitchers) settled in, but didn’t come throwing strikes right away. Offensively, it took a couple of times through the lineup to get comfortable. The biggest takeaway is that we need to keep working and be prepared so that it doesn’t take us a couple of innings to figure out what’s going on.”

The game was originally scheduled to be played on the North Medford campus, but was moved to Ashland with rain in the forecast during the late-afternoon hours.

As the regularly-scheduled 4:30 p.m. first pitch time approached, rain started to fall in Medford, proving the decision to move the game 20 minutes down the road the correct one.

Once they got going, Ashland was fighting to get back even with North Medford before the Grizzlies even took one swing.

Ashland cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the second when North Medford committed both of its errors on the day. Rhythm Winicour-Freeman moved from first to third after an overthrow on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Nick Buccino. The throw to across the diamond to get Winicour-Freeman at third base also went wide and allowed him to score.

Ashland starting pitcher Eli Westrick, who threw an inning out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s season opener at Grants Pass, went three innings against North Medford. The sophomore right-hander also tallied the Grizzlies’ lone hit in the game.

North’s Jonathan Gassman made it 3-1 with a solo home run in the top of the third. The Black Tornado scored three in the fourth and two more in the fifth to break the game open.

Ashland opens Midwestern League play at 5 p.m. on Tuesday when it faces Marist at North Mountain Park.

“We really needed these two games to figure out what’s going on,” Hall said. “(Grants Pass and North Medford) were two quality teams and we were playing up. It’s really highlighted what we need to work on.”

North Medford 201 230 0 — 8 8 2

Ashland 010 000 0 — 1 1 4

King, Buchanan (7) and Robbins; Westrick, Reynolds (4), Amman (6) and Evans, Brown (6). W — King (1-0). L — Westrick (0-1). 2B — NM: Rumrey. HR — NM: Gassman (1).

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.