Ashland blanks Eagle Point to stay unbeaten

ASHLAND — Ashland's incredible streak of shutdown pitchers does not appear to be in jeopardy. The next ace: Brady Thomas.

Thomas pitched a complete-game shutout and Ashland scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first en route to a 6-0 Southern Oregon Hybrid win over Eagle Point Wednesday at North Mountain Park.

Thomas, a 6-foot-2 senior right-hander who follows former Grizzly pitching stars Sam Gaviglio, Garrett Tygerson, Lucas Stone and Ian Kendall, struck out six, walked one and allowed the Eagles only two singles — both in the second inning, creating Thomas' only real jam of the day. He escaped deftly, issuing back-to-back-to-back strikeouts to Eagle Point's 6-7-8 hitters.

"We knew they were going to come in and they were going to give us all that they had," Ashland head coach Don Senestraro said of the Eagles, "and we didn't want to lose on our home turf because we know we got a doubleheader with them on their home turf. So, it was a big win for us."

Ashland (6-0) scored two runs on two hits in the first when leadoff hitter Taylor Humphrey scored on a sacrifice fly and Billy Hansen came home on Ben Zomerdyk's wild pitch. Zomerdyk pitched all six innings for the Eagles (1-4) and, according to Eagle Point head coach Mike Newmann, was not on top of his game. The senior right-hander wasn't shelled — he gave up just eight hits, including three for extra bases against an Ashland squad that entered the game averaging 12 runs per game — but he helped the Grizzlies out by issuing seven walks and hitting a batter.

"(Zomerdyk) didn't throw even close to his best," Newmann said. "Any time you walk guys multiple times in games you're setting yourself up, and really that was a pretty big difference."

The Grizzlies made it 3-0 in the second when Ethan Schlecht slapped a single to right to score Humphrey again.

With Thomas cruising the Grizzlies all but put the game away by scoring another run in the fourth on Hansen's RBI double over Branden Wilson's head in left field, and two more in the fifth — the first on Jake Scarminach's RBI double down the third-base line.

"(Zomerdyk) threw a curve ball for a ball first pitch so I was thinking he might come with a fastball," Hansen said of his key at-bat. "He did, and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Hansen went 2-for-2 with two walks and two doubles to continue his hot start to his junior season. Schlecht was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Scarminach was 2-for-3 and scored on a wild pitch.

Daniel Morgan and Johnny Wilkerson smacked back-to-back singles to lead off the top of the second but the Eagles couldn't capitalize against Thomas (3-0), who needed just 85 pitches to record his first complete game as a varsity pitcher. The next two batters, Wilson and Tyler Atler, both struck out on three pitches, and Thomas needed five more to K Eric Skogseth.

Thomas relied mostly on his fastball, which tops out in the mid 80s, to tear through the Eagles' lineup, but worked in his change-up more as the game wore on.

"He has good command of his fastball, in and out, up and down, so he's getting away with that right now," Senestraro said.

"It felt pretty good," added Thomas, who retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. "Everything was working. We saved the change-up until the last couple innings and then I started throwing that and they hadn't seen that."

The game was the first of the season between the only two SOH 5A members. They will meet again April 23 in Eagle Point, with Ashland needing a split in order to secure the league's top seed to the 5A state playoffs. The Eagles can turn the tables with a sweep.

The game looked like another routine Ashland home win — the Grizzlies are 46-2 at North Mountain Park since 2008 — until Newmann stormed out of the Eagle Point dugout following Scarminach's double in the fifth and complained that a Grizzly was trash talking.

Newmann said he received an apology after the game and credited his players with keeping their cool.

"There's that line between being a competitor and getting a little bit over, and that was a little bit over, and he knew it was and he apologized," Newmann said. "It's just the heat of battle "… and I was proud of my guys. Eagle Point in the past maybe doesn't handle itself really good in that situation. These guys I felt handle themselves with class."

Eagle Point 000 000 0 — 0 2 1

Ashland 210 120 x — 6 8 1

Zomerdyk and Morgan; Thomas and Scarminach. W —Thomas (3-0). L — Zomerdyk. 2B — A: Hansen 2, Scarminach.

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