Murray's blast is a monster mash for North

March 31, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Sixth inning. Bases loaded. Two outs. Trailing by two runs.

If ever there was a perfect script written for North Hagerstown's Matt Murray, this was it.

Murray - one of the most dangerous hitters in the MVAL Antietam - proved it with one powerful swing of his bat Wednesday evening, launching a three-run double to the fence in center to give the Hubs a 6-5 lead on the way to a 7-5 victory over Williamsport.

It was the culmination of a two-double, five-RBI game for Murray, as well as a wild affair altogether. The Hubs (3-2, 1-0) took an early lead off Wildcats ace Aerik Taylor, only to watch the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) rally for three runs in the fifth inning.

"It was a good win," Murray said. "It was an up-and-down game. We knew it'd be tough facing Aerik. We waited him out, got to their relievers and capitalized on their mistakes."


North saved its best offensive inning for its last at-bat - with two outs, no less.

Leading 5-3, Williamsport reliever Jason Sutherland struck out the first two Hubs in the sixth, but an infield error allowed Brandon Brown to reach base. Sutherland walked Chris Grove and fell behind 2-0 to Justin Weaver before Williamsport coach Rod Steiner made a pitching change, going with shortstop Derek Hadley.

Hadley battled back to a full count on Weaver, who battled himself to draw the walk and load the bases for Murray. He took the first pitch - a fastball just outside - then jumped on the second, sending a soaring drive to the base of the fence.

"He's been hot so far this year," Hubs coach Shawn Reynolds said. "(Assistant coaches Dan) Cunningham and (Dave) Foltz looked at me after the first pitch, and I said to them that if he gets another one like that, we're scoring from first base."

Matt Ridenour followed with his own double to the gap in right center to drive in Murray for the game's final run. He also earned the victory in relief, allowing one run on one hit in the final two innings.

Taylor - who lives on a low and away fastball - had trouble finding a strike zone which seemed to be more vertical than horizontal. He gave up two runs in the first on Murray's sacrifice fly and Colby Thompson's RBI single, and one more in the third on Murray's first towering double of the evening.

"I told him not to give in and to keep making his pitches, but his pitch count got real high," Steiner said.

Hubs starter Kent Worthington struck out 10 in 4 1/3 innings, coming off a nine-strikeout performance in relief against Frederick.

"He's a real quality pitcher," Murray said. "His name's not out there yet, but people will get to know him."

Worthington was charged with four runs - one on Corey Itnyre's solo home run to left in the second, and all three in the fifth, in which reliever Brian Barnhart gave up David Warrenfeltz's RBI double and Taylor's two-run double.

The Herald-Mail Articles