McMurrian comes up big in win over Harrison Central

PETAL – Baseball is all about situations and how teams choose to play them. In the top of the eighth inning, Harrison Central chose to use the shortstop to hold the runner at second base – the go-ahead run for the Warriors.

For the second time in three days, S.T. McMurrian came up clutch at the plate, and he slapped a single where the shortstop would have been standing at his normal position. The hit allowed Kris Jones to score from second base to give Oak Grove a 1-0 lead.

The 1-0 score would hold up in the bottom half of the inning, as the Warriors moved their record to 4-0 on the young season with the win over Harrison Central Thursday.

“McMurrian has done a good job,” Oak Grove head coach Chris McCardle said. “He’s usually a contact guy, and we swapped him and (Hayes) Maples in the lineup just for that reason. He came up big, and I was happy to see him up there, because I knew he was going to make contact.”

Oak Grove had trouble mounting rallies all night, and a couple of base running mistakes were the cause of it. Through the eight innings, the Warriors left seven runners on base and two runners were thrown out on the base paths. The first mistake came in the first inning when Jones was caught too far off the bag after an infield line drive, then Ryan Blackburn was caught trying to steal second in the top of the eighth. Blackburn thought the hitter was squaring to bunt, and when he didn’t, Blackburn was too far off the bag.

Fortunately for the Warriors, the early eighth-inning blunder didn’t hurt them in the end.

In the eighth inning, Oak Grove took advantage of the new Red Rebels’ pitcher, Porter Harrison, because the Harrison Central starter Jordan Harris pitched a gem. He threw seven innings of four-hit ball, with five strikeouts, two walks and he allowed no runs.

“We had trouble making contact all night long,” McCardle said. “That left-hander they have is a good pitcher. This is his fourth year pitching varsity games, and he’s a tough left-hander who worked both sides of the plate and did a good job against us. We just couldn’t get anything going.”

Harris’ pitching opponent, Oak Grove’s Conner Ingram, pitched well, too. He worked six innings on the bump, gave up only three hits and struck out four while walking only two batters. Blackburn pitched the final two innings, and he gave up one hit and struck out three.

“Ingram did a good job,” McCardle said. “I was really proud of him. He pitched some for us last year, and he looked really calm and composed. I thought he did a really good job, his changeup was really good, he was throwing inside well and he could have went into the seventh inning, but I wanted Blackburn to get up there.

“I’m trying to get some guys in and see what we have, because we have a long season. You just have to put them out there. If you get a bad break, and something happens and you lose the game, it’s OK. That’s what these games are for.”

Blackburn did run into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning, though. He allowed a single to lead things off, then hit a batter to put two on with no outs. After McCardle visited the mound, Blackburn struck out the next batter with a breaking ball, then the following batter with a fastball. Both strikeouts were looking, too.

The third out came when Blackburn’s pitched bounced away from catcher Cade Shannon, and as the Red Rebel runner trying to steal third, Shannon gunned him out.

“Blackburn came in there and he was a little shaky, but he made some pitches when he had to,” McCardle said. “He got two Ks that inning with first and second and no outs. I’m pleased with it.”