Ashville dispatches West Limestone, moves to second round


Photo: Ashville’s Jaden Harris (left) scores a run during the Bulldogs’ 6-5 win over West Limestone in the first round of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs on April 19 at AHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The Ashville High baseball team added another chapter to its historic 2024 season on Saturday, April 20.
After splitting the first two games of their Class 4A first baseball series with West Limestone on April 19, the Bulldogs (19-13) posted 15-5 victory in game 3 to advance to the second round for the first time since the team’s state championship season of 2003.
After games 1 and 2 were closely contested, Ashville made sure that the deciding game held little suspense. The Bulldogs put across 10 runs over the first three innings to take a nine-run lead, then scored another four in the in the bottom of the fifth after the Wildcats (13-19) had pulled within 11-5. Ashville finished with 15 hits and 18 total bases.
AHS head coach Colby Lange pointed to the extra work his team put in on Saturday morning as a major factor in the win.
“I told the guys that we weren’t going to be any good of we didn’t hit the ball, so I had them show up early at the batting cages,’ he said. “I stressed the fact that it was do-or-die, and our two seniors (Drew Layfield and Parker Cross) said they didn’t want to end their high school careers yet. You could tell that the rest of the team took it seriously, and they went out and hit the ball really well.”
West Limestone enjoyed a short-lived advantage in game 3 after Brinson Carpenter doubled and scored on an error in the top of the first. Ashville took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning with respective RBI base hits from Jaden Harris, Trevor Wicks and Justin Henderson.
Four fielding errors led to a five-run fifth inning for Ashville, as Easton Layfield, Drew Layfield, Parker Cross, Harris and Wicks all crossed home plate to make it 8-1.
Harris and Henderson each had RBI base hits in the third, while Easton Layfield scored in the fourth to push the led to 11-1.
West Limestone scored a pair of runs on both the fourth and fifth innings, but the Bulldogs put the hammer down on the bottom of the fifth. Consecutive RBI doubles by Henderson and Charley Hyde pushed it to 14-4, and Palmer’s run-scoring single ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
“I think we sent a message to our opponent in the next round that it’s not going to be as easy as they might think against us,” said Lange.
Wicks went 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored; Henderson went 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored; Harris went 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored; Palmer went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored; and Easton Layfield went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Harris earned the win on the mound in four innings of work. He scattered four hits, four earned runs and five walks with one strikeout.
Game 1 ended in spectacular fashion in the bottom of the seventh inning with Drew Layfield’s score off a Henderson single with the bases loaded and two outs. The Bulldogs were trailing 5-3 heading into that inning.
As the starting pitcher, Drew Layfield kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard through the first four innings, allowing three only baserunners while striking out four. Palmer’s RBI single in the bottom of the first had provided the hosts with the early advantage.
West Limestone broke through in the top of the fifth when four errors by the Bulldogs led to four unearned runs and a 5-1 Wildcat lead.
Layfield responded by limiting the Wildcats by retiring six of the next seven batters, and the Bulldogs offense rewarded his production when a double by Henderson in the bottom of the sixth scored Harris and Cross.
After Layfield sent the Wildcats down in order in the top of the seventh, he helped his cause in the bottom of the inning when he doubled in Ethan Layfield to draw Ashville within a run. Cross singled in Palmer in the next at-bat to tie the game, and following a walk that loaded the bases, Henderson delivered a walk-off base hit that put the Bulldogs up 1-0 in the series.
“That was the heart of our batting order right there, and they’ve been getting it done in those spots all year long,” said Lange. “Anytime we get our 1 through 5 five guys up, I’m confident in our production.”
The visitors were not ready to head back to Lester at that point, however, as West Limestone rebounded to take the nightcap by a score of 7-4.
With the game tied 4-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Wildcats put across three runs to take a 7-4 advantage. Cross reached base on an error with one out in the bottom of the innings, but Wildcat starter Braxton Griffin induced a pop up and a fly out to secure the win.
In 6.2 innings, Griffin allowed five hits, one earned run and seven walks while fanning nine.
Griffin retired the Bulldogs in order in the top of the first and West Limestone took the early lead when Jace Meredith doubled in Carpenter.
Ashville did not trail for long. Henderson and Cross both worked a bases-loaded walk, while Harris came home on Ethan Layfield’s sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.
But Griffin kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard over the next three innings, and West Limestone put together a three-run bottom of the third to take a 4-3 lead.
Palmer’s RBI single in the sixth tied the game, but that was the extent of the Bulldog offense for the rest of the game. Palmer went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Hyde had a hit, and RBI and a run scored.
‘[Griffin] is a really good pitcher, but we made some errors on the basepaths that hurt us as well,” said Lange. “We might have tied the game or even won it if we didn’t have those mistakes, but we’ve been aggressive on the basepaths all year, and there’s no reason to change that now.”
Ashville travels to Deshler for a second-round series starting with a doubleheader on Friday, April 26 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. The if-necessary game 3 is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m.
“[Deshler has some really good pitching, but if we hit like we did on Saturday, I think we’ll be fine,” said Lange. “Both of their [pitching] studs are sophomores and limited to 100 pitchers, and we’re pretty good at fouling off pitches and extending at-bats. So if we continue to have good plate discipline, there’s a good chance we can get them out of the game at some point.”

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