Blue Ridge downed by Lions
BY CONOR FOLEY
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning and his team down one run, Lackawanna Trail shortstop Ben McLaughlin focused on one runner.
“The runner on third,” he said. “That was my priority. Just get him across whatever way we could.
“It worked out.”
McLaughlin smashed a walkoff, two-run single into left field to lift top-seeded Lackawanna Trail over No. 4 Blue Ridge, 5-4, in a District 2 Class A semifinal baseball game Wednesday.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” McLaughlin said. “This is where we put it all on the line. We’re not going to leave anything on the field.”
Blue Ridge made a push for a spot in the title game.
With the game knotted at 3-3 entering the eighth inning, the Raiders went to work. Sawyer Dearborn led off with a walk, and coasted into third base on a successful hit-and-run single by Mike Gathany, giving Blue Ridge a two-on, no out opportunity.
After Lackawanna Trail reliever Pete Murazzi notched a strikeout, Matt Laubach put the Raiders in front with an RBI single to center. Blue Ridge kept the threat going as Joey Zawiski worked a walk to load the bases, but Murazzi ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
“At that point of the game, I just didn’t want to let my team down,” Murazzi said. “I wanted to fight back and throw strikes.
“Usually when I get mad, I start throwing more strikes, so then I got us out of the inning.”
Needing a run to keep the game going, Lackawanna Trail rallied.
Matt Flynn lined a single to start the bottom of the eighth – his third of the game – and Murazzi followed with a single of his own. Second baseman Billy Lee then squared to bunt in an attempt to get the runners over. Lee dunked the ball toward third base, and when Blue Ridge’s attempt to get the force at third was a second too late, the Lions had the bases loaded with no outs.
After Blue Ridge got a force out at home plate, McLaughlin stepped up.
“I’m just trying to put the ball in play, really,” McLaughlin said. “He gave me the fastball and I just turned on it and hoped for the best.”
McLaughlin lined it between the drawn-in shortstop and third baseman, scoring Murazzi for the tie and Lee for the win.
“I watched it (go through),” McLaughlin said “And that’s a great feeling. Rounding first base, and then I saw Petey (Murazzi) coming home. That was it.”
Murazzi picked up the win in relief of for Lackawanna Trail, striking out six against one hit in three innings of work.
“It was a ballgame,” Lackawanna Trail coach Todd Peters said. “(Blue Ridge) came to play, hats off to them. They made their plays, they put pressure on us the whole game, and it was a ballgame. I’m really happy the way my guys battled through it and stuck with it.”
Laubach finished with two hits and two RBIs, Curtis Mills added two hits and an RBI and Gathany had three hits. Starting pitcher Riley Fekette had a home run for Blue Ridge.
“It’s brutal. It’s really brutal,” Blue Ridge coach Billy Marvin said. “Having seven or eight seniors, watching them walk off the field today, I wanted them to play one more game. I really did.”