Pilots’ Carlson having breakout summer

Meet Ashland’s next great hitter: incoming junior Eric Carlson.

He managed to stay under the radar during the spring as one of several youngsters to earn playing time on the varsity squad, but this summer Carlson has established himself as the most dangerous batter in the Ashland Pilots’ lineup. The utility infielder – he can do a little bit of everything, including pitch – is batting .473 with seven doubles, two triples and 21 RBIs for the American Legion A Pilots, who were 14-7 heading into tonight’s doubleheader at Grants Pass. That batting average is better than any other Pilot by a whopping 86 points.

Having watched Carlson play since Little League, I’m not surprised by that video game stat line. He’s always had a quick bat, good timing, the ability to go opposite field and he can run. He’s put it all together this summer, uncorking the kind of breakout Legion season that often leads directly to varsity success (see former Grizzly greats Sam Gaviglio, Ian Kendall, Garrett Tygerson, Ethan Schlecht, and so on).

Also hitting well for the Pilots are Ryan Bottimore (.387 ba, 19 RBIs, 10 doubles), part-timer Steen Fredrickson (.368 ba, 15 RBIs, four triples) and Tommy Hulick (.351 ba, four doubles).

The top pitcher is Jack Carroll, who’s 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 22 innings. He’s struck out 28 batters with 12 walks. Carter Glick has a lower ERA (1.27) in half the number of innings and remarkably has struck out 19 batters without issuing a single walk.

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Golf just isn’t my sport

I showed up at a local golf course – I won’t share which one because it doesn’t matter – Monday with high expectations based on exactly two good shots I produced a week prior. Counting the good-shots day, this was my second golf outing in 18 month. Turns out, that’s not a large enough sample size to predict performance. I struggled to locate my “A” game. Consequently, my “B”, “C” and “D” games were also AWOL. That is to say, I was spectacularly awful. My drives – the ones that I didn’t chunk directly into the turf, that is – went everywhere but the fairway. My chip shots either came up short of the green or sailed clear over (onto an adjacent driving tee in one particularly embarrasing instance). My putts were usually off to the left or right by at least six inches. In short, it was a terrible day at the links.

There’s no deeper meaning here, no hidden subtext, no point really, other than to express my frustration to a hopefully sympathetic audience. And yet next father’s day, I’ll probably be back out there, $60 lighter, raking my 7-iron through bushes looking for a ball that I’ll never find.

Anyway, here are 10 lucky shots that will make you smile.

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Here we go again, Ashland baseball fans

I have to admit, I was not sold on the Ashland High baseball team coming into this season. The Grizzlies seemed to have a few too many question marks on defense. I didn’t see anybody resembling a staff ace. And the batting lineup, I thought, would probably be pretty good at the top, followed by a huge drop-off after about five or six in the order. After an incredible five-year run that included two state championship game appearances and one state title, it appeared quite possible that this would be the year that Ashland finally fell back to Earth.
It didn’t happen like that, though. Instead, Ashland’s defense, following some early-season growing pains, has turned out to be quite reliable – case in point, it turned three key double plays in Ashland’s big Game 2 blowout win over 6A title contender Crater on Saturday. Junior right-hander Jamie Flynn has emerged as Ashland’s next golden arm, and that was before Saturday’s prove-it, four-hit complete-game victory over Crater. And as for that batting lineup, the 6-7-8-9 spots have turned out to be a strength, not a weakness, with sophomores Eric Carlson and Bryce Rogan providing key hits in recent wins over Crater, South Medford and Mountain View.
The playoffs start this week and Ashland, ranked fifth in the OSAA 5A rankings as of Saturday night, is once again positioned well for a nice postseason run. The key to the Grizzlies’ championship hopes may be their bullpen. Who will get the start when Flynn can’t? I asked coach Paul Westhelle that question Saturday and he said he’s still not sure. Senior righty Ethan Schlecht and junior lefty Jack Carroll appear to be the top two candidates, but there’s no clear favorite. Schlecht has the most big-game experience, but if he’s pitching that means he’s not in the field, where he’s valuable as a four-year starting infielder. Carroll has impressive complete-game victories over North Medford (shutout) and Crater, but is a slow starter and has put the Grizzlies in jams by walking guys in bunches.
Freshman Steen Fredrickson and Carlson may also see action this postseason, but anybody who’s paid attention to the playoffs knows that from here on out it’ll pretty much be a two-man show in the pitching department.
No matter who Westhelle goes with, it looks like the Grizzlies will once again be a factor in the playoffs. The play-in game will most likely be played Thursday. Check back here for links and other playoff notes once the opponent has been determined.

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Full-time job

I’m not sure how they do it. High school and college athletes spend so much time practicing, playing, working out and traveling to and from games that it’s a miracle they still have the time to finish their homework and sometimes even hold part-time jobs. Which makes Joy Harpham’s accomplishments that much more impressive. In case you missed it, the trackster and volleyball player was singled out in Tuesday’s paper for being named the Ashland Kiwanis April Student of the Month. Besides earning second-team all-SOH 5A recognition as a member of the volleyball team, and clearing 5-feet to win the Medford Rotary Relays high jump on April 7, Harpham has also managed to find time to:
1. Maintain a 3.66 gpa.
2. Serve as vice president of her class as a junior.
3. As a member of the Global Citizens Club organize the Aids Awareness Dance fundraiser and week-long hunger-awareness project.
4. As a member of the redesign team, help to identify communication needs for the school.
5. Work as a lifeguard at the YMCA.

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A brave new BBCOR world

I ran across an article on oregonlive the other day that pointed out that the new BBCOR-certified bats high school baseball teams are now required to use will likely lead to a reduction – steep perhaps – in offense. According to The New York Times, when College Baseball went through the same transition last season home runs fell by 45 percent, runs by 19 percent and batting averages by nine percent. Consequently, earned run averages dropped by 21 percent.

In other words, it’s reasonable to expect a fairly substantial shift in the balance of power in prep baseball this season from the batter’s box to the pitcher’s mound, which in turn could change the way coaches coach and players play.

“I can’t help but think the game is going to turn into a small ball situation,” Roseburg head coach Troy Thompson told The Oregonian. “It’s more like a wood bat game, where pitching is sometimes very dominant.”

I talked to Ashland coach Paul Westhelle about this last week and he didn’t seem concerned, probably because Ashland has built its recent playoff success largely on pitching and defense and has three more quality pitchers again this year in Ethan Schlecht, Jamie Flynn and Jack Carroll.

As far as the offense goes, it’s true that we may see more small-ball tactics this season, but that doesn’t mean that games will be any less exciting. Actually, I think the opposite is true (though I’m probably in the minority on that one). Yes, home runs are thrilling, but nothing electrifies a crowd like a base-runner flying around third attempting to beat a relay throw that isn’t far behind – and that’s exactly what we should be seeing more of this season. That, and more aggressive play-calling in general, as in more hit-and-runs, squeeze bunts, steal attempts, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. Sluggers will still slug. But you probably won’t see too many end-of-the-bat singles this season, or 160-pound second-basemen sending towering shots over the wall in center field. Instead, high school teams must rely more than ever on the fundamentals, and speed may end up trumping power as the most important attribute in a batting lineup.

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Ashland High baseball 2012

I talked to Ashland High’s new baseball coach, Paul Westhelle, Thursday and his rundown of the team made me feel better about their chances this season. It’s a tough act to follow for Westhelle. His predecessor, Don Senestraro, led the Grizzlies to four straight appearances in the Class 5A state semifinals and five straight trips to the quarterfinals. By those standards, last year’s elite eight appearance qualified as a bit of a downer for the Grizzlies.

So the big question for Grizzly fans is, does the school’s most successful sports program have at least one more great postseason run left in the tank? Or, will this be the year Ashland crashes back to reality?

Westhelle’s confident that it’s the former, and he makes a pretty good case. My full preview will appear in Saturday’s Tidings, but essentially Westhelle contends that pitching and defense is the key and the Grizzlies have both. Ethan Schlecht, Jamie Flynn and Jack Carroll will be the workhorses on the mound.

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Grizzlies run over Wolverines

By Joe Zavala

Ashland Daily Tidings

As expected, a running back had a monster day in Ashland on Friday.

The surprise may be who it was that ran wild.

Ashland junior Jon Volz exploded for a career-high 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns and the Ashland defense limited Willamette standout Jordan Visarraga to 98 yards as the Grizzlies bowled over the ninth-ranked Wolverines 49-12 in a Midwestern League romp at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Volz scored his first touchdown less than two minutes into the game to kickoff a lightning-quick start that put the Grizzlies ahead 21-0 midway through the first quarter. Willamette used two long drives to get as close as 21-12 early in the second, but Ashland and its deceptive rushing attack dominated the rest of its homecoming game.

The Grizzlies (3-1, 2-1 MWL) wound up with 462 yards of total offense, 342 on the ground, while holding the top offense in 5A football to zero points and 109 yards in the second half.

“We sort of took what they gave us,” Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. “They kind of stacked the box a little bit early and we had some success running. I think running the ball is an attitude and our kids just got confident and they got aggressive, and they were intelligent about how they were blocking the different schemes. And Jon did an awesome job — his yards after contact were phenomenal.”

Coming into the game Volz’s top rushing performance was an 81-yard effort in Week 1 against Klamath Union. He topped that by halftime against the Wolverines (3-1, 2-1), gaining 96 yards on just nine carries, including a 47-yard burst on the Grizzlies’ second play from scrimmage that set the tone for the game.

The game had the look of a wire-to-wire blowout after Ashland took advantage of an interception, a three-and-out and a unsuccessful fake punt by Willamette to take a 21-0 lead when quarterback Danial White bolted 21 yards straight up the middle with 5:56 to go in the opening quarter.

White completed 8 of 16 passes for 90 yards and two TDs and also rushed for 83 yards.

Willamette briefly made a game of it with back-to-back long touchdown drives, with Visarraga’s 30-yard touchdown run capping a 90-yard march that cut the lead to 21-12.

But Ashland added another touchdown before halftime, then scored twice in the third quarter to put the game away.

After Volz’s 5-yard gut-buster completed the scoring and clinched his double century-mark day with 7:53 to go his accomplishment was relayed to the fans over the loudspeaker — to thunderous applause. Volz mostly shrugged it off, though, instead crediting the Ashland offensive line with clearing the way.

“The holes were ridiculous, I was loving it,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without (the linemen). I’m honestly surprised, but now I see that our team can do it so I hope to see more of this running game in the future.”

Volz’s counterpart, Visarraga, who had amassed 378 yards in his first two Midwestern League games, finished with 95 yards on 26 carries against an Ashland defense that seemed to spend half the night in Willamette’s backfield.

Senior linebacker Andrew Blocher led that defense with seven tackles and a sack, one of three on the day for the Grizzlies. R.J. Atteberry and Mason Montgomery both had an interception, with Montgomery’s setting up Ashland’s second touchdown.

“Both our defense and the offense made a lot of technical mistakes,” Willamette head coach Dan Fritz said. “Ashland has good athletes and got after it, so I’ve got to give them the credit for being able to put us back on our heals a little bit. That got us pressing and making some mental mistakes that we shouldn’t have had.”

The first half had a little bit of everything, including a bizarre fake punt pass play that backfired on the Wolverines, and an end-around option touchdown pass from Ashland’s Jordan Thompson to Sam Geisslinger. The surprise 30-yard play came after back-to-back delay of game penalties against the Grizzlies, giving them a 28-12 halftime lead.

“I was afraid (Visarraga) was going to have 10 carries for 150 yards, but we made some nice adjustments and our kids played really hard,” Hall said. “It was a sweet homecoming win.”

Ashland 49, Willamette 12

At Walter A. Phillips Field

Willamette 6 6 0 0 —12

Ashland 21 7 14 0 —49

A — Volz 4 run (Wurfl kick)

A — Volz 28 pass from White (Wurfl kick)

W — Visarraga 40 run (Waggoner kick)

W — Visarraga 30 run (pass failed)

A — Giesslinger 30 pass from Thompson (Wurfl kick)

A — Thompson 1 run (Giesslinger pass from White)

A — Humphrey 29 pass from White (kick failed)

A — Volz 5 run (Wurfl kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

Wil Ash

First Downs 18 21

Rushes-Yards 41-109 41-342

Passing Yards 247 120

Comp-Att-Int 18-32-2 9-17-1

Total Yards 356 462

Punts 4-26 2-39

Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0

Penalties-yards 5-45 9-81

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING

Willamette — Visarraga 26-95, York 2-5, Leber 12-5, Giles 1-4.

Ashland — Volz 18-200, White 10-83, Chandler 8-43, Davies 2-13, Thompson 2-11, Montgomery 1-(-8).

PASSING

Willamette — Leber 18-31-2 247, Waggoner 0-1-0 0.

Ashland — White 8-16-1 90, Thompson 1-1-0 30.

RECEIVING

Willamette — York 1-61, Giles 5-60, Crownover 4-39, Edris 2-28, Hatefi 3-23, Visarraga 2-18, Ferguson 1-18.

Ashland — Humphrey 3-38, Volz 2-35, Giesslinger 1-30, Lime 2-18, Walters 1-(-1).

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The wild world of high school football

Don’t even try to figure out what the Ashland Grizzlies will do next week against Willamette.

The Grizzlies beat Churchill on Friday, on the road. It was a huge win against a legitimate Midwestern League title contender, and it came a week after top-ranked Marist delivered a 49-0 forearm shiver to Ashland’s MWL championship hopes right in front of all those pumped up Grizzly fans at Phillips Field.

Two weeks, two vastly different results. The lesson is that when it comes to high school sports, you just never know. Why? Because they’re high school kids. They have other things on their minds, like next week’s book report, and tomorrow’s date, and their hair, and their clothes, and whether or not they should pre-order Modern Warfare 3 or rent it first. Which is why I know Charlie Hall wasn’t kidding last week when he told me that road trips aren’t so bad. Not bad at all, actually. Less distractions.

Anyway, check out the stats from Friday’s game (thanks Ashland Football Club) and visit the excellent Midwestern League Web site to stock up on Willamette info.

AHS vs CHS
(09/16/11 at )
Eugene,  OR
SCORE BY QUARTERS  1   2   3   4   OT  TOTAL
(V) Ashland Grizzlies 13 7 6 0 0 26
(H) Churchill Lancers 0 6 6 8 0 20
Scoring Summary: Plays Yards TOP Score
08:16  AHS Danial White Carries(QB Keeper) TOUCHDOWN, clock 08:16 42 yds PAT Kick by Ian Wurfl GOOD. 9 77 03:44 7 – 0
02:58  AHS Danial White Carries(Hand Off) TOUCHDOWN, clock 02:58 2 yds PAT Kick by Ian Wurfl NO Good 9 74 04:12 13 – 0
04:26  CHS Mitch REESE Passes to Andrew BENNION COMPLETE TOUCHDOWN, clock 04:38 9 yds PAT Kick by Josh HAN NO Good 4 29 01:40 13 – 6
00:19  AHS Jon Volz Carries(Hand Off) TOUCHDOWN, clock 00:19 3 yds PAT Kick by Ian Wurfl GOOD. 6 66 01:48 20 – 6
10:01  CHS Mitch REESE Passes to Tyler REID COMPLETE TOUCHDOWN, clock 10:01 17 yds PAT Kick by Josh HAN NO Good 6 57 01:59 20 – 12
05:14  AHS Danial White Carries(QB Keeper) TOUCHDOWN, clock 05:22 26 yds PAT Kick by Ian Wurfl NO Good 2 40 00:36 26 – 12
07:08  CHS Mitch REESE Carries(QB Keeper) TOUCHDOWN, clock 07:08 5 yds PAT Pass from Mitch REESE to Andrew BENNION GOOD. 14 95 04:01 26 – 20
 
  CHS AHS
FIRST DOWN 13 16
RUSHES / YARDS (NET) 28/77 39/229
PASSING YARDS (NET) 179 133
Passes Att/Comp/Int 36/19/0 18/14/1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS/YARDS 64 / 256 57 / 362
Fumble Returns / Yards 0 / 0 0 / 0
Punt Returns / Yards 2 / 3 1 / 8
Kickoff Returns / Yards 5 / 141 3 / 42
Interception Returns /Yards 1 / 7 0 / 0
Punts (Number/Avg) 6 / 37 6 / 41
Fumbles / Lost 2 / 1 1 / 0
Penalties / Yards 4 / 27 10 / 91
Possession Time 19:20 28:39
Sacks By: Number/Yards 1 / 5 3 / 15
 
RUSHING(Att / Yards):
Ashland Grizzlies Danial White 15 / 125 Jon Volz 17 / 72 Austin Chandler 4 / 28 Jordan Thompson 2 / 4
  TEAM 1 / 0
Churchill Lancers Tyler Reid 6 / 37 Mitch Reese 15 / 22 Aaron Ingram 7 / 18
 
 
PASSING(Comp/Att/Int/Yard):
Ashland Grizzlies Danial White 14/18/1/133
Churchill Lancers Mitch Reese 19/36/0/179
 
 
RECEIVING(No / Yard):
Ashland Grizzlies Franklin Lime 4 / 64 Sam Giesslinger 1 / 36 Jordan Thompson 4 / 27 Quaid Walters 2 / 22
  Jon Volz 2 / -6 Carter Glick 1 / -10
Churchill Lancers Tyler Reid 8 / 91 Tucker Molinski 6 / 51 Jake DeZarn 1 / 23 Andrew Bennion 2 / 12
  Aaron Ingram 2 / 2
 
 
INTERCEPTIONS(No / Yard):
Ashland Grizzlies
Churchill Lancers Brenden Nesbitt 1 / 7
 
Stadium: Attendance: 0
Kickoff time: 07:00 PM End of Game: 10:00 PM Total Elapsed Time: 3:00
Officials: Referee: ; Umpire: ; Linesman: ;
Line Judge: ; Back Judge: ; Field Judge: ;
Side Judge: ;
Temperature: 0 Weather:


 
SACKS(UA / A):
Ashland Grizzlies Franklin Lime 2 / 13 Alec Ralston 1 / 1 Mason Montgomery 1 / 1
Churchill Lancers Gavin Cowles 1 / 5
 
 
 
TACKLES (UA / A) :
Ashland Grizzlies Austin Chandler 9 / 1 Franklin Lime 5 / 3 Jordan Thompson 3 / 1 R.J. Atteberry 3 / 1
  Sam Giesslinger 3 / 0 Alec Ralston 2 / 7 Paul Davies 2 / 1 Conor Morrison 1 / 3
  Rain Leo 1 / 2 Andrew Blocher 1 / 2 TEAM 1 / 1 Jon Volz 1 / 0
  Mason Montgomery 0 / 4 Ian Wurfl 0 / 1 Brandon Vaughan 0 / 1 Unknown 0 / 1
 
Churchill Lancers Aaron Ingram 11 / 1 Weston LaMora 7 / 0 Will Dawson 5 / 2 Kyle Salisbury 3 / 0
  Brenden Nesbitt 3 / 0 Jake DeZarn 3 / 0 TEAM 2 / 0 Nate Parks 2 / 0
  Tyler Reid 1 / 1 Peter Estrada 1 / 1 Colin Smith 1 / 0 T.J. McIntyre 1 / 0
  Darren Kime 1 / 0 Isael Huesca 1 / 0 Josh Han 1 / 0 Gavin Cowles 1 / 0
  Andrew Bennion 1 / 0 Ryan Evans 0 / 1

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Thomas, Hegdahl to represent AHS again

Pitcher Brady Thomas and third baseman Brent Hegdahl will get one more chance to represent Ashland High School at next weekend’s 6A-5A Oregon All-Star Series. The annual baseball series – one game Saturday and a doubleheader Sunday – pits the best seniors from southern Oregon against the best from up north.

Thomas and Hegdahl will represent the south. Only two other players from the Southern Oregon Hybrid will be there – Grants Pass infielder Nathan Etheridge and Roseburg outfielder Micah Audiss.

Here’s the All-Star Series web site. Pretty cool event, and it’s at Goss Stadium (Corvallis) this year.

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AHS-West Albany preview

 

By Joe Zavala

 

Ashland Daily Tidings

 

In his 13 years as West Albany’s head baseball coach, Don Lien has learned to accept a hard truth about playoff baseball: the closer you get to the state championship game, the more likely chance will play a role in determining the outcome.

Sometimes, he says, it’s the difference between winning and losing.

“I think there are probably six teams in the mix that are pretty similar to each other,” Lien said after Thursday’s practice, the Bulldogs’ last before traveling to Ashland for today’s Class 5A state quarterfinal game, “and when you get that close, which team gets the breaks in the game is huge. I’ve had teams that I thought were going to go all the way and then a game has been decided by one break.

“I just think we’re getting to the point where breaks determine the game.”

Lien has at least two heartbreaking losses in recent years to point to as proof. In 2008, the Bulldogs fell 11-9 to Thurston in the 5A semifinals, and the following year they dropped another nail-biter to Thurston, 4-3, in the quarters (Thurston went on to win the title in ’09 and lost to Ashland in the ’08 championship game).

Lien hopes the breaks will fall West Albany’s way today when it faces Ashland (25-1) at North Mountain Park. The game is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to face either Sherwood or Mountain View in the semifinals Tuesday.

Though both teams will be throwing their aces — Taylor Burner for West Albany (20-7) and Brady Thomas for Ashland — the game has all the makings of a slugfest. Ashland averages a whopping 10.5 runs per game (second in the state) and has scored 10 runs or more 14 times; West Albany averages 9 runs per game and has scored 10 runs or more 13 times.

“We have won games in all directions,” Lien said, “hitting home runs, by doubles, we’re able to handle the small ball game. We’re very versatile, probably one of the most versatile teams I’ve ever coached.”

West Albany is led by three first-team all-Mid Willamette Conference picks, including Burner, the league’s player of the year. The 5-foot-11 lefty throws a fastball in the mid-80s, according to Lien, and is comfortable with three pitches. It’s a combination that’s worked well for the senior — he’s 9-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 62 innings.

Burner, along with fellow MWC first-teamers Jackson Ruckert and Nick Lebengood, has also been a beast at the plate. He’s batting .541 with eight homers and 42 RBIs. Ruckert is a .401 batter with two homers and four triples, and Lebengood bats .452 with four homers.

The Bulldogs, like the Grizzlies, showed off their offensive firepower in a first-round win Wednesday, creaming Hood River Valley 12-5 at Goss Stadium. Ashland beat The Dalles Wahtonka 13-8. The Bulldogs crunched five extra-base hits, the Grizzlies four.

“We both saved our aces to come at each other,” Lien said. “It might come down to whose ace stays on the mound longer.”

Ashland coach Don Senestraro was able to save Thomas (8-0) for today’s game, opting on Wednesday to go from starter Max Anderson to reliever Christian Morrison even after The Dalles Wahtonka scored six runs in the fourth to tie that game at 8-all.

Senestraro didn’t see that as a risky move, but in Corvallis, Lien knew he was taking a chance by starting junior Nolan Burright instead of Burner against Hood River Valley. It appeared to backfire when the Eagles scored three runs in the second to go ahead 3-1, but the Bulldogs scored three in the bottom of the inning and five in the fifth to win going away.

Can they put up those kind of numbers against the 6-foot-5 Thomas?

“I’ll be honest, we know nothing other than a YouTube video that we’ve seen on him,” Lien said. “But really, our nemesis is usually internal. Our guys have a great demeanor right now and I don’t expect that to change (today). But our focus is on us. The opponent is a factor that we can’t control.

“We haven’t peaked, but we’re playing very confident and we have a good team chemistry going right now, and that is valuable going into the playoffs. Our kids love to compete, and … they’re excited about coming to Ashland to play a good baseball team. You’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”

 

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    Joe Zavala has been the sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings since 2001. Read Full
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