MURRAY — All Murray's Cam Howe needed was one more out. It was the top of the seventh inning with the Spartans clinging to a one-run lead. The junior wound up and fired away toward the plate.
And West's Eric Takenaka smoked the pitch to the cheap seats to force extra innings.
Yet, Howe didn't panic. "I just knew this was my game to win," he said. "I told my coach, he wanted to put in our other pitcher (and) I said I wanted this game."
In the eighth inning, Howe collectively retired the Panthers lineup before ultimately claiming redemption with a game-winning RBI bunt, his second of the night, for the 4-3 win.
"It was a team effort. I mean I pitched good, but we couldn't have done it without a few key guys down the order getting on base," Howe said. "That was huge coming down to the end of the game. They're a great team, and they competed, but we came out on top today."
For the majority of the contest, Howe was a gunner on the mound — especially in the closing innings. On two occasions, he was able to make a sandwich out of a serious jam with clutch strikeouts.
"Just trying to keep the hitters off-balanced," Howe said when asked what he was throwing at West. "I have a good curve ball, so I was trying to mix that in the first few pitches in the count."
The Panthers (6-4) struck first in the second innings. West's Mason Abrath laid down a suicide-squeeze that originally brought home Andrew Burnside, but later added Mitch Imamura to the mix when Murray focused on Abrath at first.
The Spartans were quick to respond the ensuing inning when Mitch Dial hopped one pitch left over the plate for the solo homer to cut the score to 2-1.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Howe drilled a rope over short for two-run RBI single to give Murray (5-3) its first lead.
Both teams exchanged blows from that point on before Takenaka's shot in the seventh.
It marked the fifth consecutive win for the Spartans subsequent to starting the year 0-3.
"We have a lot of team chemistry," said Howe. "We have a new coach, and he's inspired a lot of enthusiasm to the team. We're all hyped up and ready to go."