ST. MARYS – A wild start led to a wild finish Saturday evening in St. Marys as Colton Gordon’s walk-off home run in the ninth inning pushed Lenox into the Class 1A District 13 semifinals by a 6-5 final over Murray.
The two offenses seemed to be in call and response throughout the game as every time one got on the board the other retaliated with a run or two of its own.
In the ninth, Lenox didn’t allow Murray a chance to counter as Gordon stepped to the plate against a new Mustang pitcher.
The Tiger junior needed three pitches to dial in a ball that was driven out to left-center field, hitting off the top of the building positioned in the outfield.
Struggles to find the zone early
Walks headlined the game’s early going Saturday as both teams gave away free bases that resulted in runs.
Lenox got the first run in its opening at-bats after Gordon walked and came around on a wild pitch, but Murray answered back with some assistance from the Tigers.
Kegan Johnson and Jaydn Patton drew leadoff walks for Murray in the second inning and Tivon Spurgeon, who was riding a four-game hitting streak, doubled up the right field line to plate both Mustang runners.
“We got a bunch of gifts. Walked a bunch of times, but just really couldn’t put the bat on the ball to get it out of the infield a bunch of times,” said Murray head coach Clint Foster about the Mustang offense, which stranded 10 runners on base.
Murray tacked on in the third after four walks brought around another Mustang run, but Lenox’s bats quickly evened the score.
Lenox regained the lead in the fourth as Brad Larson came around to score after getting on via a bunt single.
The Tigers held the 4-3 lead into the sixth inning before Murray reciprocated once again.
Jimmy Graham led off the frame with a single and Reece Held reached on an error, allowing Brycen Wookey to drive them both in with a two-run double to left center.
Held, who started the contest for Murray, picked up his 11th strikeout of the evening in the sixth before being relieved by Wookey to end the frame.
“(Held) pitched a great game. ... A bunch of strikeouts again. He proved why he’s one of the better pitchers in the (Bluegrass) conference,” said Foster.
Zach Schmitz held Murray scoreless in the seventh with a pair of strikeouts to give the Tigers the chance to tie things in the final half inning before the walk-off hit in the ninth.
Murray bows out of its 2019 campaign with a 9-13 record and will lose only one senior in Graham, the Mustangs’ leadoff hitter.
“He’s filled in a lot of holes ... Last year he played seven positions and this year he played six. He’s been the best leadoff hitter I can ask for,” said Foster of Graham.
The Mustangs were much improved in 2019 after winning two games last season and improved the team batting average from .221 to .250. Murray’s on-base percentage also rose from .302 in 2018 to .354 this year.
“I would have liked to win 10 games. It’s easy to compare to last season and be very happy about it,” said Foster. “With only one senior for two years in a row, you can’t hope for anything but improvement and hopefully we translate that into next year.”