MEDFORD — Eventually, if you give a team extra opportunities, they will take advantage.
That was the case for the Ashland Pilots in the opening game of Thursday afternoon’s doubleheader against the North Medford Mavericks.
They just happened to be on the wrong side of it.
After building an early two-run lead, Ashland saw North Medford go from not having a hit against starting pitcher Eli Westrick in the first four-plus innings to scoring six unanswered runs in a 6-2 win over the Pilots at North Medford High School.
“We gave them too many opportunities,” Ashland head coach Oz Sailors said. “Obviously, (North Medford is) a solid team and they can hit a little bit and I think we gave them too many opportunities. Eli is our best pitcher and we made four errors when he was on the mound. We made four errors, there was a few walks there, and that contributes to a higher pitch count for him. We have to pull him at 105 pitches since that’s his limit and that’s the difference in the game is him having to labor and throw more pitches deep into the game.”
North Medford took its late-game momentum from the opener right into the nightcap, as it claimed a 10-0 win over Ashland in five innings to complete the doubleheader sweep.
Ashland returns to North Mountain Park for a doubleheader against Phoenix at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
“The biggest thing for us is just taking care of the baseball,” Sailors said. “I feel like, right now, we are a good enough team that we give our starting pitchers a chance and our starting pitchers have done a great job of giving us a chance to win. That’s what I ask of them, but we need to do the little things defensively and make the routine plays.”
North Medford began its comeback with a run in the bottom of the fourth to cut Ashland’s lead to 2-1, taking advantage of a pair of Pilots errors.
The Mavericks took the lead an inning later, with all three of their runs in the bottom of the fifth coming with two outs.
Westrick’s opposite number, Mavericks starting pitcher Gavin Schmidt, drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. The next batter, left fielder Owen Grafton, pulled a two-run single into right to give the Mavericks a 4-2 lead.
Josh Baptiste and Ryan Kloek added RBI singles in the sixth inning.
Westrick — who allowed his first hit of the game with one out in the fifth — allowed just two hits in five innings of work. All four of the runs charged to him were unearned, while he walked five batters and struck out two.
In a complete-game effort, Schmidt allowed two runs on six hits and struck out four.
“I thought he had really good stuff, I thought he competed,” Sailors said of Westrick. “He had a harder time throwing his curve for a strike, but his four-seam and his two-seam were working well — and that’s what he was using. We make those routine plays, he doesn’t have to go have a 30-pitch inning and it’s a different game.”
Ashland scored single runs in the first and third innings to build its 2-0 lead.
Westrick came into score on Luke Brown’s sacrifice fly to right field, drawing a throw from the outfield and then sprinting home after the ball went high and wide of its intended target.
Two innings later, Evan McLennan — who hit a one-out double to get on base — came in from third on a double steal.
However, the Pilots weren’t able to add on after going up 2-0.
In four of the first five innings, Ashland stranded a pair of runners on base.
In the one inning where the Pilots didn’t leave two runners on, they left just one runner on.
Of the 10 total runners that were left on, nine of them came in the first five innings.
“Honestly, it was just not hitting with two outs,” Sailors said. “We did a lot of things right. My goal is to get a guy on second base with less than two outs and that gives us two chances to strike. We got them on, we got them over, we just couldn’t get them in. That was the big difference.”
Westrick, Anway (6) and Gilliland; Schmidt and Passey. W — Schmidt. L — Westrick. 2B — A: Westrick, McLennan; NM: Kloek.
Amann, Gilliland (4) and Evans; Blankenship and Passey. W — Blankenship. L — Amann. 2B — NM: Kloek, Passey. HR — NM: Samudio.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.