Thanks to an RBI double in the sixth inning from Trevor Dale, the Murray Spartans were able to narrowly sneak past the Box Elder Bees with a one-run win in the first game of their 5A second round matchup last Saturday.
When it came time for Monday’s game two showdown between the two teams, the margins weren’t nearly as narrow as game one.
By a score of 12-2, the Spartans dispatched Box Elder, secured their second win of the series and punched their ticket into the third round of the 5A playoffs. Murray scored all 12 of its runs unanswered after trailing 2-0 through the first two innings.
From the outset, it appeared the Spartans would be given another stiff test from the Bees as Box Elder scored what would be its only two runs of the game within its first three at-bats.
After experiencing those first-inning struggles, Murray pitcher Kindrick Tipping and the rest of the Spartan defense began to find their groove. Following the walk, two hits and two runs that he allowed on the first three at bats, Tipping went on to finish with six strikeouts and allowed only one more hit for the remainder of the game.
“He came out of the gate a little sluggish and missed a few spots,” Murray head coach Marce Wilson said. “He kind of found his groove in the second inning with those three strikeouts and he got a little momentum behind him and the confidence. He was competing and he did end up throwing very well. He was the reason we were able to shut down that good offense that Box Elder has.”
Tipping’s performance was aided by nearly picture-perfect play from his defenders. Right fielder Josh Smith had a stellar third inning in which he secured all three outs for the Spartans after making three difficult catches in the outfield, and in the infield, shortstop Ian Winterhalder made an impressive catch and throw for a double play in the fifth inning. Then in the sixth, Winterhalder extended to make a leaping catch off of a frozen rope from Box Elder’s Carson Lancaster.
“Our kids expect every ball to be hit to them, so you’ll see them make plays that generally wouldn’t be made because they’re expecting it,” Wilson said. “But we have a lot of good athletes on defense as well that make a lot of athletic plays. Just good athletes that expect the ball to be hit to them every time, and that athletic talent behind our pitchers allows us to make the plays we do.”
As the defense picked things up, the hitting for Murray began to follow. The Spartans used a big five-run third inning to erase Box Elder’s two-run lead and open up the game. Following the third inning, Murray scored another seven runs over the next three frame and forced the game to end an inning early after it claimed a 10-run lead.
Murray’s senior ace Daniel Brousseau, who tallied eight strikeouts in game one, led the hitting surge for the Spartans. Brousseau batted-in a game-high four runs with a single, a double and even a bunt.
“Us seniors had a pregame talk with the rest of the team and told everyone that losing wasn’t an option today,” Brousseau said. “We needed to stop waiting on pitches and be aggressive from the get-go.”
The Spartans finished the game with 11 hits, 10 of which came within the last four innings.
“There’s enough good hitters in our lineup that when they’re having good days, they’re a tough lineup to pitch to,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he was happy his team didn’t get a first-round bye because it could potentially help the group build momentum heading into the next round. That momentum Wilson hoped for was likely generated in Monday’s dominant win as he and his team gear up to face Spanish Fork in the third round.
“I think we faced a good team today to prepare us for Spanish Fork,” Wilson said. “We certainly have some confidence going into our matchup with Spanish, and we’ll need it because that’s one of the best teams in Utah regardless of the classification.”
Brousseau reaffirmed what his coach said.
“I think our confidence has increased as we worked out the kinks and problems in our performances headed into the next series,” Brousseau said. “We’re prepared for tough games against Spanish Fork, but you have my word, we’ll put up a fight.”