If you throw strikes and make solid defensive plays, then you’ll be all right on the diamond. At least, that’s what North Murray High School’s team thinks.
That philosophy seems to be working for the Mountaineers.
North Murray (7-8, 4-2) outlasted Sonoraville 3-2 in a 10-inning marathon at home Tuesday. It was the Mountaineers’ fourth win in five games and gives them a simple, yet successful, identity as the midway point of the Region 5-3A schedule draws closer.
“We have to throw strikes and make the plays behind them,” North Murray coach Steve Granger said. “Our pitchers are finally beginning to trust our fielders instead of thinking, ‘Hey, I have to do this, because they may not make the play.’”
After the Phoenix tied the game 2-2 in the sixth inning, neither side scored through the next three innings despite each team having chances. The Mountaineers had a runner at second in the eighth when Cole Vaughn struck out to end the inning, and Jared Campbell was left stranded in the ninth.
Sonoraville (8-7, 3-3) had runners at first and third in the seventh, but North Murray starting pitcher Jared Goswick forced Thad Harris to fly out to right. It was Goswick’s last pitch of his seven innings on the mound. In the 10th, Sonoraville had a runner at second but Ethan Lents struck out Griff Bryant to once again keep the Phoenix from breaking the tie.
“We just didn’t do enough at the plate,” Sonoraville coach Deron Walraven said. “In games like today, the little things make the difference.”
Vaughn’s game-winning, bases-loaded single drove in Aaron Granger, who walked to start the inning and reached third after Brandon Brock’s double.
“I was swinging out of my shoes on the first pitch,” Vaughn said.
North Murray started region play with a 10-3 loss to Adairsville and fell to 3-7 overall. Since then, the Mountaineers have allowed just five runs in their four wins.
On Tuesday, Goswick and Lents combined for nine strikeouts and gave up just three walks. Add in the six hits and two errors, and North Murray’s defense got the opponent out 75 percent of the time (40 total at-bats). And 70 percent of the outs came from the fielders making plays. It’s the defensive version of small ball — you don’t have to overpower teams with strikeouts to win games, just as you don’t need tons of extra-base hits from your offense.
“It’s important because we don’t have pitchers who just mow people down,” Vaughn said.
On offense, North Murray took little time getting on the scoreboard. Brock started the first with a walk, and Lents sent him to third on a hit-and-run single. Brock scored a couple pitches later on a double-steal with Lents.
In the fourth, Goswick and Campbell had back-to-back singles, and Alex Viars drove in Goswick after a Sonoraville error.
Goswick allowed just two hits and two walks through his first five innings. In the sixth, Harris and Bryant reached to start the inning on a single and an error. After advancing on a sacrifice bunt, Harris scored on a wild pitch and Bryant on Brandon Dendy’s sacrifice fly.
“We should’ve won in seven innings,” coach Granger said. “We had the booted grounder up the middle and then a wild pitch.”
Lents pitched three innings, allowing just one walk and earning the win.
Sonoraville’s Drew Wilson pitched eight innings and allowed one earned run off just four hits. Harris took the loss, pitching the final two.