ABILENE, Texas - The McMurry baseball program earned its third walk-off win of the week, as the War Hawks defeated St. Mary's University, 3-2, on a sacrifice fly by Eric Moritz. The victory also gave McM the 2-1 series win over the Rattlers who came into the weekend ranked as the number seven team in the nation, and number one in the South Central Region, by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
"It was a great, hard fought series," said head coach John Byington "Our guys have been working very hard all year, and this was well deserved. The whole team played hard and it really showed out there over the last two days."
Starting pitchers, McMurry's Aaron Burns and St Mary's Matt McClain kept both teams off the board through the first four innings of the game. McClain allowed just three War Hawks to reach base while Burns allowed just five baserunners including striking out six.
St. Mary's finally broke through in the top of the fifth inning when the Rattlers struck for one run in the frame. After a walk and a groundout put a runner on second base, Kyle Bumpas drove in Ivan Sigala with a RBI single to make the score 1-0.
After reliever Charlie Hejny held the Rattlers without a hit in the top of the sixth and seventh innings, the War Hawks were able to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. With Ricky Garcia standing 90 feet away with two out, Ruben Zendejas hit a ground ball down the first base line. Zendejas then avoided the first baseman who had picked up the ball and reached first base safely, allowing Garcia to score to tie the game, 1-1.
Neither team would score in the eighth inning, but St. Mary's would notch the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. After the bases had been loaded with one out, Jarred Hopper came in to pitch for the War Hawks. The first batter Hopper faced hit a double-play ball to second base, but the War Hawks were unable to pull off the double-play as a run scored making the Rattlers' lead 2-1.
"That was a tough play," remarked Hopper. "I knew we had to put the ball in play and I got the ground ball that I wanted, it just wasn't fast enough to be able to turn two."
In the bottom of the ninth, the War Hawks once again put together a late inning rally. Pinch hitter, Casey Berryman got the rally started with one out when he roped a single to right-center field. After Jeffers Rader came in to pinch run, Marsh then singled through the left side of the infield to put runners at first and second.
With two on and one out, Garcia continued to swing a hot bat, as he hit a double to left field, scoring Rader to tie the game at 2-2. The next batter was Zendejas, who was intentionally walked to load the bases for Moritz. On a 1-1 count, Moritz lifted the ball to center field which allowed Marsh to score from third to give McM the 3-2 victory.
"I knew what this win would mean for our team," remarked Moritz, who earlier had been hit in the face by a foul ball, splitting open his lip. "All I had to do was step up and put the ball into the outfield. I was more relaxed out there because I was worrying more about my lip than I was about the ball, and it kept me from being nervous."
The victory gives McM its second series win over a top-three Heartland Conference team (the War Hawks had recently taken a series, 2-1, over Texas A&M International).
"I felt like this team has been really close the whole year," remarked Hopper of the series victory. "I think we now have a really good set lineup and rotation, and if we didn't make anyone else take notice with this victory, we definitely gave ourselves more confidence."
Offensively for McM, the seven, eight and nine hitters came through in a big way as the combination of Marsh, Garcia and Zendejas went six-for-10 with two of the team's three RBIs. Individually, Zendejas went three-for-three on the day.
On the mound, the pitching staff continued to be in top form as all three hurlers pitched well in the game. Burns went five full allowing just five hits and one earned while striking out six in the no decision. Hejny came in and pitched 3.1 innings of relief while allowing just two hits and one earned.
For the third time this week, Hopper came into the contest and pitched with the score tied and did not allow an earned run, as he picked up his third win in the last six days.
"After having to sit out over the last two years, I love being able to come in and contribute," remarked Hopper. "I really enjoy attacking hitters and just throwing strikes. It makes it much easier when the eight guys in the field have your back."
Next up for the War Hawks, McM will take to the road as they travel to Goodwell, Oklahoma for a three-game set with the Aggies of Oklahoma Panhandle State University on March 22 and 23. Double header action on Friday is set for 1 p.m.
Information provided by the McMurry Athletics Dept.
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