MOUNT VERNON — For the second straight year, the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets took on the Logan Chieftains in the baseball sectional semifinals.
For the second straight year, the Jackets made it look easy.
Eric Ashbrook showed dominance from the mound and Riley Swanson tallied three hits including two doubles in Mount Vernon’s 5-1 home victory Monday.
Ashbrook, who began the season as one of the top junior prospects in the state, finally broke through with a huge performance. Ashbrook pitched a complete game victory, coming just one passed ball — with two outs in the seventh inning — away from a shutout. He controlled seemingly every pitch, striking out 10 batters. Incredibly, he ended every inning with a strikeout.
“I had a rough start last week, and coaches told me to relax,” said Ashbrook. “I’ve been putting way too much pressure on myself lately. I just kind of relaxed today, and I did a lot better.
“They were a little behind on the fastball. I just kept pounding the fastball at them, and it worked pretty well.”
“It was good to see Eric get back into what he does,” said Mount Vernon head coach Matt Smith. “He had great velocity today and hit his spots.”
Behind Ashbrook, the defense controlled the pace, not committing a single error.
“I’ve been really pleased with our defense this past week,” said Smith. “Our goal has been to play our best baseball in the tournament. Fortunately, we win and we get to keep playing on.”
Logan didn’t threaten until the fifth inning when, with two runners on, Joey Cook hit a bunt single that trickled to second base. Logan’s Colton Taulbee inexplicably rounded third and headed for home, where he was easily tagged out by catcher Ryan Goetzman.
In the sixth, Logan again had two runners on with one out. Ashbrook struck out the next two batters to end that threat.
In the final inning, Dalton Long led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt, then came home on a passed ball.
Mount Vernon’s offense still isn’t clicking on all cylinders, but it did enough to keep the team ahead. On the fourth pitch of the game, Brandon Dobbs knocked a fastball over the left-field wall for a solo home run.
In the second, Nick Hoar singled, reached second on a Nate Shuman single, then scored on consecutive wild pitches. Then, in the fourth, Shuman reached on an infield single and scored on a Kory Shackle single.
“We hit the ball in the air too much today,” said Smith. “But, we’re getting more quality at-bats.”
Swanson’s first double came later in the fourth, when he knocked in Dobbs who scored all the way from first. His second came in the sixth.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” said Swanson. “I was looking for a quality at-bat each time. I made some adjustments to my swing, and it’s working out. ... We knew it could be our last game if we lost, so we wanted to leave it all out on the field.”
Dobbs knocked in the final run of the game when he hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Steve Shannon.
Dobbs and Shuman each had two hits. Goetzman and Jayben Martin also singled.
Win or lose, the Jackets knew that this would be the last game of the season at home. On Wednesday, they move on to face Pickerington Central on the road in the sectional final.