With the way Wyatt Murray was pitching, the slim lead felt a lot larger than it actually was. The senior lefty had everything working for him and with just 90 pitches he was able to spin together a 2-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory over Stuarts Draft.
“We were charting first pitch strikes and there were only two batters where he didn’t get that first pitch over for a strike,” said Goochland coach Wes Farkas. “As a coach that’s literally all you could ask for. He just had great command and he couldn’t be touched.”
With Cougars starter Trevor Craig just allowing two hits himself and striking out four, base runners were hard to come by for both teams. But Goochland was able to draw a trio of walks and force an error and that wound being the difference.
“It was a really good game with both pitchers throwing really well — they just got the run and we didn’t,” said Draft coach Josh Podgorski. “Trevor had two rough starts coming into this one and then was just fantastic today against a very good hitting team, a great lineup. He pitched well enough to win.”
The Bulldogs stranded a pair of runners with two outs in the bottom of the second, but in the third they were able to pick up the game’s lone run. The brief rally started with a 1-out single from Walker Murray. After John Rammsbottom walked, Murray was able to tag from second to third on a pop fly to deep left from John King, catching the Cougars defense unaware in the process.
“They must have thought there were two outs or there was a miscommunication so they just threw it in,” Murray said. “I was nervous because Farkas was yelling ‘Get down’ and so I slid and then popped up and nothing was there. It was a big tag up.”
Then with runners on the corners, the Bulldogs caught the only break they needed. Murray drew a throw from home to third in between pitches and it sailed high over the bag and into left field down the line to allow him to score gingerly and standing up.
“Their catcher made a nice stop on a pitch in the dirt and I had a really big secondary lead,” said Walker Murray. “I started jogging back slowly because I knew he was aggressive. I tried to bait the throw, it was overthrown and so I took off.”
And that would be it for offensive production for both squads. For Farkas, it was a familiar sight for a coach who’s seen more than his share of postseason wins, particularly recently.
“Any kind of playoff run requires that you catch some breaks,” Farkas said. “We caught one there and that’s why we’re still fighting.”
Before and after that, the game was all about the elder Murray on the hill. Wyatt Murray struck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced and had at least one K in each inning. He never allowed a runner into scoring position. He finished with 13 strikeouts on the day and struck out each Cougar in order at least once. Two hits, one walk. That was all he gave up, and none of the them close enough together to matter.
“It was the final home game and I had a lot of adrenaline, I was just trying to make the best pitches for my team to win,” Murray said. “I was throwing a lot fastballs towards the later innings. The curveball was a bit more of a slider tonight, I kept getting around it more so it kept diving in more to the right handed batters and away from the lefties. And the changeup was working tonight, I had a good feel for it.”
Murray’s final strikeout came in the top of the seventh after a two out walk. With the go ahead run at the plate, Murray picked up the K looking with one last strike on a 1-2 count to wrap up the win.
Goochland will now head to Southwestern Virginia for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs will face Page County which defeated Maggie Walker, Goochland’s Region 2A opponent 8-2 on the other side of the Class 2A bracket. The state semifinal will be held at Calfee Park in Pulaski on Friday at 10 a.m. The winner advances to the state final to be held at Radford University on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“For John King and Wyatt Murray, this is their third trip because they were there as sophomore’s in 2016,” Farkas said. “They’re no strangers to the stage and a lot of the guys have been there before so hopefully we can put it all together this time.”