YAKIMA — Not many high school baseball players know what it feels like to deliver a walk-off hit in extra innings to win a state championship game.
Archbishop Murphy’s Eric Lawson does now. The Wildcats’ senior hit a curveball into center field in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night, scoring Patrick Spak and Trever Morrison as Murphy came from behind to defeat Lynden 7-6 in eight innings in the 2A state championship game.
“I got behind a little bit, but I knew he was going to come back with a curveball,” Lawson said. “After that I don’t remember a whole lot but a lot of hugs and a few kisses from the guys.”
The Wildcats’ road to victory started out smoothly enough, but looked more like a roller-coaster ride by the end.
The first two innings of the game were quiet — Lynden was hitless and the Wildcats only managed one hit. It was in the third inning when the flurry of scoring began. After Lynden’s starting pitcher Fraser Shindruk retired the first two batters of the inning, Morrison singled to right field followed by Lawson reaching on an error. Shindruk then walked Alex Galgano to load the bases.
The stage was set for Levi MaVorhis, the winning pitcher in Friday’s state semifinal. This time MaVorhis did his damage with his bat, dropping a three-run single in between the center fielder and the left fielder.
“He (MaVorhis) is one of those that you have to say he reaps what he sows,” Wildcats coach Stan Taloff said. “He sows all good stuff. In practice, on the field, off the field, everything he sows is the right thing and so that’s always going to come back and get you. That’s part of a principal that always works.
The Wildcats held on to their three-run lead until the top of the fifth inning when the Lions made it a game. With run already in, Josh Kraght doubled off the right-field wall to tie the score at 3.
That set the stage for a thrilling final two innings.
The Lions took their first lead in the top of the seventh inning on a two-out, two-run base hit by pitcher Zach Vis.
The Wildcats were down to their final three outs — and they never flinched.
Morrison walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Lawson singled up the middle and Galgano was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought up MaVorhis, who came through once again. This time he hit a single to left field that tied the score at 5.
“Great things can be accomplished if nobody cares who gets the credit,” MaVorhis said. “Coach Taloff has been preaching that all year. Thankfully I came out and was able to get a couple of hits, but it was a team effort. It shouldn’t go to any one guy. We’ve all done great things and we’ve all worked to get here. So you can’t really put it on one player, it’s just a great team effort.
After the Wildcats rallied to tie, the Lions recovered and ended the inning before Archbishop Murphy could score the game-winner.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Lions reclaimed the lead thanks to a little bad luck for the Wildcats.
Lynden’s leadoff batter in the inning, Tanner Olson, reached and advanced to second base when what appeared to be a routine flyball was lost in the lights by both the center fielder and the left fielder. Olson advanced to third when the next batter grounded out and scored one batter after that on a wild pitch.
“There were a couple of times there where I felt if we come back from being down by two late in the game, this is going to feel better than if we had taken that three-run lead and made it a six-run lead and an eight-run lead,” Taloff said. “But you have to say, ‘how can this happen?’ Because it has been such a tight game the whole way.”
Murphy began the bottom of the eighth with a strikeout. Okada then singled and was replaced by Spak as a pinchrunner. Morrison followed with a double to set the stage for Lawson. On Morrison’s hit, Lynden’s left fielder lost the ball in the lights and fell down.
Perhaps the Wildcats first rally propelled the second.
“The first time was the toughest because we were up 3-0 and we had been in tough situations, but that was do or die and we have really experienced that this year on this big of a stage,” MaVorhis said. “After we came back the first time and we were so close, we kind of had more confidence and we can do this again – and thankfully we did.”
Taloff gave all the credit to his players, but after 34 years as a head coach, he finally has his first state championship team, something that clearly meant something to his players.
“That’s one of the reasons why it felt so good,” Lawson said. “He’s meant a lot to me and he’s put a lot in to me in my high-school baseball career and I wanted to somehow get him what he doesn’t have yet. He has, you know 500 wins and he has a lot of things, but he didn’t have a state championship. For us to get that, it was great.”
And for Taloff, he no longer has to say he has done everything but win the state title.
“It’s a completion,” Taloff said. “It’s a completion of all of the things that you do. Everybody talks about successes and you have a long list of league titles and district titles and regional titles, but not a state title. So it kind of finishes it off. But I think the main thing that I like about this is that these guys started a year ago with a mindset that this is what we wanted to do. Just because you have that mindset doesn’t mean it is going to happen, but they did everything needed to make it happen. Then when it does happen it is much more rewarding than just sort of tripping over it.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At County Stadium, Yakima
Fraser Shindruk, Zach Vis (5) and Josh Kraght. Derrick Mahlum, Marcus Burdyshaw (6) and Alex Galgano. WP — Burdyshaw. LP — Vis. 2B — Josh Kraght (L), Trever Morrison (AM), Eric Lawson (AM). Records — Lynden 22-5, Archbishop Murphy 27-2.