Rally puts Ashland in semifinals for first time

ASHLAND — Ashland's wild ride through the month of May isn't over yet.

Hayden Miller drove home the winning run with two outs in the fifth inning and fellow sophomore Charlie Sebrell pitched five strong innings as the Grizzlies overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat Corvallis 5-4 Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs.

Ashland's ninth win in a row earns the Grizzlies (18-10) a semifinal date with sixth-ranked Churchill (20-7), which advanced with a 10-5 win over Summit. The first semifinal game in Ashland baseball history will be played Tuesday at North Mountain Park.

The Grizzlies fell behind 2-0 on Evan Hilberg's first-inning home run and trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Max Gordon lined an RBI double to cut the lead to one, but Ashland still trailed after Gus Gaviglio struck out swinging with the bases loaded.

That brought up Miller, who had a run-scoring single in his first at-bat against Corvallis starter Eric Evenson but struck out in his previous at-bat. The two dueled to a full count.

"That guy had good control and he had to come to me," Miller said, "and I was swinging."

Ashland's designated hitter crunched Evenson's next pitch, and the ball barely squeezed through the hole between third base and shortstop to score Gordon and Lewis Sebrell.

"When (Miller) got up with the bases loaded, we were all pretty confident that it was going to turn around," Gordon said.

Miller went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the Grizzlies. Owen Baldrica was 2-for-3 with one RBI.

With the lead in hand, Ashland head coach Don Senestraro replaced starter Charlie Sebrell with senior Gus Gaviglio in the sixth. Three days removed from a 103-pitch, complete-game effort against Roosevelt, Gaviglio came through again, but not without some drama.

Ashland's staff ace hit Hilberg with a pitch in the sixth but got out of the inning when Danny Alig grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. In the seventh, Gaviglio hit Drew Hubel to put the tying run on base with one out. That was as close as the Spartans got, though. Gaviglio struck out the next batter and got Matt Phillips to fly out to center.

Gordon squeezed the last out, then raised his arms as the Grizzly dugout cleared.

"I never gave up on them," said Senestraro, who insisted back on May 1 that Ashland still had a shot at the playoffs despite its horrendous 3-6 start in league play. Ashland hasn't lost since being swept in a doubleheader at Crater, and now the Grizzlies are one win away from a possible rematch with the Comets for all the marbles.

After the game, Senestraro got a leaping bear hug and kiss from his wife, followed by a Gatorade shower.

"This is the team I thought we always had," he said. "Wow. This is just amazing."

Charlie Sebrell was less than amazing at the start, but turned it on after Hilberg's homer, which cleared the fence about two feet inside the foul pole in right. Sebrell allowed just two more hits the rest of the way and finished with five strikeouts.

His counterpart, Evenson, gave up five hits and four earned runs in 42/3 innings. He walked two and struck out one before giving way to Hilberg, the Mid-Willamette Conference co-pitcher of the year.

Corvallis (21-7) upped its lead to 4-1 in the third. Williams hit an RBI double to score Matt Phillips from third and later scored on Justin Meza's throwing error.

Corvallis 202 000 0 — 4 3 2

Ashland 010 130 x — 5 5 1

Evenson, Hilberg (5) and Schuh; C. Sebrell, G. Gaviglio (6) and L. Sebrell. W — C. Sebrell (6-2). L — Evenson. Sv — G. Gaviglio (1). HR — C: Hilberg. 2B — C: Williams; A: Gordon.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at 482-3456, ext. 224, or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com

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