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Matt Evans knocks one out to centerfield for the winning runs in the fifth inning

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Pinch-runner John McQuillin trots home while the La Salle dugout erupts after seeing Matt Evans grand slam clear the fence to put the Falcons in front in the fifth inning of their 8-7 playoff win over Ashland on Wednesday.

First-round playoff

Team Score
La Salle Prep Falcons
Ashland Grizzlies

The La Salle Prep baseball team put up a seven-run spurt in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday to get past Ashland 8-7 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.

Trailing 5-1, the Falcons started their comeback with Gavin Gately fouling off a series of third strikes before sending a two-run double into the right-field corner.

Next up was designated hitter Patrick Raschio, who swung through for a tall pop-up that floated behind the mound. The ball slipped out of an Ashland glove, preventing the Grizzlies from picking up the second out of the inning.

La Salle made them pay for the mistake moments later when Shawn MacNeela whipped a line drive off the third baseman's glove, allowing pinch-runner Ian Simmons to come home from second base to make it a one-run game.

Liam Gwynn drew a walk to load the bases and bring up the top of the Falcons' batting order.

Senior Matt Evans followed with the shot heard around Milwaukie — a grand slam over the center-field fence to push the Falcons in front 8-5.

"I was rounding first base when I saw the outfielder just standing by the fence, and I kinda knew. It's a great feeling to be able to deliver in that moment," Evans said. "They had been doing a lot of hollering up until that point, then it got a lot quieter."

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - La Salle Preps Matt Evans jumps onto home plate after his grand slam in the fifth inning to put the Falcons on top 8-5.

But Ashland wasn't ready to pack their bags and board the bus just yet.

The Grizzlies loaded the bases with one out in the sixth when Dane Reynolds whipped a drive drive down the middle that had La Salle infielders Isaac Kersey-Bronec and Evans on a collision course at second base.

Kersey-Bronec shouted for the ball, snagged the head-high catch and nearly doubled off a runner at second base.

Falcons' reliever Perry Collman struck out the next batter, giving a double fist pump as he walked off the mound.

"I was just thinking that I've gotta get an out, and I can't give them anything down the middle of the plate," Collman said. "That was the biggest sigh of relief I've had in awhile."

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - La Salle Preps second baseman Isaac Kersey-Bronec hauls in a line drive to help the Falcons escape a bases-loaded threat in the sixth.

The Grizzlies were back at it in the seventh with Rowan Amann and Nathan Carter starting off the inning with back-to-back singles. Both of those players would find their way home to bring Ashland within a single run.

La Salle's defense answered the challenge when Evans charged a ground ball in front of second base to keep the tying run pinned at first base. A couple pitches later, a fly ball sailed out to Nolan Grogan in center field.

"I was just smiling when I saw it coming my way. That's when I knew it was over," Grogan said.

Also over was La Salle's three-game losing streak in the playoffs.

"I wanted nothing more than to get a playoff win with these guys I have spent all high school with," Grogan said.

La Salle (17-10) has won 10 of its last 11 games and is the last Northwest Oregon Conference team standing, as it heads into Friday's quarterfinal game at No. 1 Central.

"It was about being down 5-1 and still believing you have a chance. Everyone has to do their job to come back from that — it was a full team effort," La Salle head coach Nate Fogle said. "We've been grinding games out all season, and this was another one that came down to guys coming through when they had the opportunity."

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - La Salle Prep reliever Perry Collman pumps his fists in celebration after throwing a strikeout to escape a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning.

La Salle touched third base in each of the first three innings, but had only one run to show for it on Spencer Paugh's sacrifice fly to center field in the third inning.

Falcons' pitcher Gavin Gately got off to a fast start, retiring the Grizzlies in order each of the first two innings.

Ashland would eventually wake up their bats, loading the bases with no outs twice on their way to a 5-1 lead.

Ashland broke onto the scoreboard in the third on Nick Buccino's two-run single to left field. Gately ended the inning with a strikeout that stranded a pair of runners in scoring position.

Ashland notched another run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch, but La Salle limited the damage when Gately came up with back-to-back strikeouts, and Paugh got under a high fly ball in center field.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - La Salle Preps Spencer Paugh reaches out for a sacrifice bunt in his first at-bat of the game.

Ashland extended its margin by scoring on a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch in the top of the fifth.

Evans, Grogan and Gately finished with multiple hits for the Falcons. Gately struck out six batters through the first five innings, while Collman surrendered two hits over the last two innings to close out the win.

ASHLAND 002 120 2 — 7 6 4

LA SALLE PREP 001 070 x — 8 10 3

Total bases — ASH Nick Buccino 3, Evans, Amann, Carter, Ransweiler; LAS Matt Evans 5, Gately 3, Grogan 2, Kersey-Bronec, Norton, Paugh, MacNeela. LOB — ASH 8, LAS 7.

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This story is slated for our May 29, print edition.

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