LAUREL – It was a pivotal moment in time that baseball players dream of: a tied ballgame with the bases loaded and victory in their grasp.
For Laurel High School sophomore shortstop Malachi Murphy, the moment was more than that. He connected on possibly the biggest hit of the season against DuVal High School as Laurel High School continues to battle for positioning in the Maryland Public Schools Secondary Athletic Association (MPSSAA) playoffs.
“Two games ago, I got a strike out, and I almost lost the game for my team so doing this really motivated me,” Murphy said of his last time in a similar situation. “So I really know what I can do for my team.”
Murphy connected with a line drive hit to deep left field to drive in the game’s final two runs as the Spartans emerged victorious over the Tigers, 11-10, on April 26.
“It was a tough fought game,” Laurel Head Coach Donald Cleveland said, “A couple plays early in the game tilted the (tide) of the game, but they fought the whole way and (Murphy) got that game-winner.”
Both teams battled through weather conditions all day as any ball hit at Laurel’s ballpark was carried by a persistent wind that was blowing an average of five to 10 miles per hour. The wind played a significant factor all day that made fielding more difficult than usual.
The whipping dust got into players eyes as well causing umpires to allow both coaches to stop the game whenever the wind did start to blow.
“It was hard in the infield mostly because the ball would travel and go to the right a little because of the wind,” Murphy said, “But I think we came through really good.”
The Spartans (7-6) got off to a hot start at the bottom of the first scoring four quick runs. The bat of right fielder Joseph Sigeyog came alive with an RBI triple that helped bring in three runs. The triple was aided by a pair of errors in the outfield and during a throw toward third base.
DuVal (6-8) responded gradually. The Tigers drew first blood after an RBI single by left fielder Marcus Hilliard sent runners home. The deficit was then cut to one at the top of the third inning. It was an overall disastrous outing for Laurel’s defense as the Tigers scored five runs and sophomore pitcher Tanner Perkes struggled.
Perkes allowed four walks and three hits against just a single strikeout out as the DuVal gained all the momentum. He was able to get out of a jam with the bases loaded with a pair of groundouts to end the top of the fifth inning. As he headed to the dugout, his Spartan teammates reassured the sophomore that all would be fine.
“I did my part, but really it’s on my team today,” Perkes said, “Usually I can pitch the whole game. This team we lost to them (earlier in the year) but today, it was all on the team, not me.”
The struggles continued once again for Laurel as DuVal took a one-run lead at the top of the fourth after Medwin Reves-Martinez knocked in an RBI single middle through the gap.
“Not the best (performance),” Perkes said, “I had faith in the team the team really stepped up today, and we hit the ball really well.”
The Spartans had a chance to seize the lead at the top of the bottom of the fourth with the bases loaded, but Sigeyog came in to pitch and struck out his final batter, leaving runners stranded.
It was not until catcher Adrian Jovel replaced Perkes on the mound and the Spartans completed a double-play that Laurel reclaimed momentum and confidence.
The bases were loaded when senior center fielder Ray Wesley hit an RBI single and gave his Spartans an 8-7 late lead. DuVal quickly fought back with an RBI triple at the top of the seventh inning to the knot the score up at 10-all.
In the final inning, Laurel was able to load the bases again, setting up for Murphy’s walk-off hit and a win.
“Tough loss… I feel like we beat ourselves more than we lost that game,” DuVal Head Coach Russell Brotz said. “There were mistakes on both sides… They did a great job of just getting out of their own way, which is the best possible point for us.”