by Max Mercy
PROCTOR -- The Rails, visitors on their own field, defeated Ashland, 5-2, in their first Lake Superior Conference tilt of the season. The game was played in Proctor due to wet grounds in Ashland.
Proctor starting pitcher Cole Johnson (1-0 W-L, 3.50 ERA) earned his first varsity win. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts in four innings.
A four-run third inning broke a 0-0 tie. Ben Harnell led off with a walk. Lucas Nordquist and Bryce Huffman singled to load the bases. Zach Gunderson walked, sending in Harnell with the game's first run. Blake Koski's sacrifice fly plated Nordquist. An error on the play allowed Huffman to score from second and Gunderson to advance to third. Ryan Lear's RBI single sent in Gunderson for the fourth run.
Proctor went ahead 5-0 in the fourth when Harnell, who walked with one out, scored on an RBI triple by Huffman.
Ashland cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson had walked two batters before recording the second out of the inning. But Ashland capitalized on the free passes with an RBI single by Jackson Bonneville and an RBI double by Earl Kraft.
Reliever Jake Pioro worked out of a no-outs, bases-loaded jam in the fifth. After two walks and a hit batsman to start the inning, Ashland's Bo Bratley was caught stealing home on a botched squeeze play for the first out. Pioro then got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning unscathed. He threw two scoreless innings before handing the ball over to Nordquist, Proctor's all-time saves leader.
Ashland threatened in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded on two singles and a walk, Jordan Linder ended the game with a diving catch near the right-field foul line. Nordquist got his first save of the season and the sixth of his career. He is now tied for sixth on the state list for career saves.
Harnell scored two runs. Nordquist had two hits and a run. Huffman had two hits, including a triple, with a run and an RBI. Gunderson drew four walks. He scored a run and had an RBI. Koski had a hit and an RBI. Lear had a hit and an RBI.
Kraft, the losing pitcher, allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits and five walks with two strikeouts in four innings.
Kraft had two hits including an RBI double to lead the Oredockers' offense.
Proctor, now 4-1, travels to Two Harbors on Friday, April 27. The game is at 4:30 p.m.