On the first day of May, each coach agreed that his team’s best is yet to come.
Ashland got the best of Fairview, 5-1, at Central Park’s Ernie Chattin Field on Thursday, but the Eagles’ Matt Thompson couldn’t frown or shake his head too much.
“I think it was 10 times better than the last time we played them,” Thompson said, referring to the 12-2 outcome on March 27. “If you look at this team compared to March, we’ve come a long way, but there’s still work to be done.”
Fairview was one out away from escaping the third and fourth innings unscathed, but Ashland wasn’t willing to cooperate with that plan. The Tomcats scored all five of their runs with two outs.
Ashland pitcher Jared Slone notched a complete game. He needed just 72 pitches as he relented five hits and a run over seven innings. He had three strikeouts and a walk.
Tomcats coach Jeff Wilcox said Slone threw “a whale of a game,” and that the pitching will keep the team afloat until the offense comes around.
“We’re still getting great pitching,” Wilcox said. “And I believe everything else will fall in place for us.”
Casey Clark got one to fall in the right place at the right time on Thursday. The junior came through with a two-out, two-strike, two-run double to give Ashland a 2-0 lead — and he wears No. 2.
Evan Cox followed with an RBI single to put the Tomcats up 3-0.
Fairview scratched one across when senior Austin Harris plated Jonathan Ruggles on a fourth-inning single. Ruggles had reached on a base hit.
Ashland’s Trent Woods came up with the most persistent plate appearance of the evening in the bottom of the fourth. He fouled off pitch after pitch — the at-bat comprised of 15 total pitches — before recording a run-scoring single. Cody Conley had an RBI double earlier in the inning.
“Trent Woods battles it out, gets a base hit to knock in a run,” Wilcox said. “That’s what you gotta do, battle there and put it in play.”
Slone tossed three shutout innings to close out his win.
Fairview’s first two batters, Blake Smith and Jesse Menshouse, reached with back-to-back singles to begin the game. However, the Ashland defense helped Slone escape by executing a double play.
“(Slone) did a good job of letting his defense work and kept his pitches down,” Wilcox said. “He kept his cool and let his defense help him get out of it.”
For Fairview, the first of two baserunning blunders led to the first of two double plays.
“Walks and stupid baserunning mistakes hurt us, but we stayed right in it,” Thompson said.
Harris pitched a pair of scoreless frames after coming on in relief. He missed games last week because of Fairview’s senior trip.
Fairview (3-13) takes on Rose Hill today at 5:30 p.m.
Ashland (11-7) is set to return to its normal home facility, Alumni Field, tonight at 6:30 to face Bath County.
FAIRVIEW 000 100 0 — 1 5 0
ASHLAND 003 200 x — 5 5 1
Menshouse, Harris (4) and Ruggles; Slone and Fritz. W—Slone. L—Menshouse. 2B—Clark (A), Conley (A).