ABILENE, Texas – Over five hours of baseball occurred at Walt Driggers Field on Saturday afternoon, but just one swing of the bat stood out from the rest – the final one.
Tied 11-11 in the bottom of the 16th inning, junior Sam Hillyer wasted no time finding his pitch. The San Antonio native swung at the first pitch of the inning and rode it deep into left field, ending the game with a solo shot and leading McMurry to a 12-11 victory over St. Thomas (Texas) in the series finale.
Hillyer’s run was the only one scored in extra innings, as fans were treated to a pitching duel after the ninth. The last laugh went to junior Ryan Potter, who moved in from left field and tossed 7.0 quality innings. The final six innings were scoreless, keeping McMurry (2-3-1) in a position to win following 100 pitches.
St. Thomas (3-7) looked to be the early favorite after scoring six runs in the first inning. Carrying a 9-3 lead into the eighth inning, the potent McMurry offense went to work. Runners were moving from station to station most of the inning, allowing the War Hawks to add four runs and make it a 9-7 game.
Enter Marty Carnahan.
With runners in scoring position and one out, Potter was hit by a pitch to load the bases and represent the go-ahead run. Carnahan then stepped in, crushing a grand slam into left field to give his team the lead and the late momentum. The homer was his first of the season.
As Potter replaced Clayton Banks on the mound, the Celts responded with two runs to re-tie the game. A two-out RBI single tied things up, but a flyout ended the threat with the go-ahead run on base.
Potter then went on to duel against fellow utility player Jason Brown. The St. Thomas shortstop held McMurry scoreless for 5.2 innings late, but ran out of juice after the 14th inning and was replaced by Zach Brunner. Brunner made it through one inning unscathed, but could not escape Hillyer in the 16th.
Freshman Jackson Newkham replaced Potter in the top of the frame, picking up the win in his first collegiate appearance. Newkham tossed a scoreless inning, but not without pressure as he stranded runners on second and third with a flyout.
Javier Rosa, Kyle Strickland and Trent Lee each had eight at-bats for the War Hawks in the five-hour, 11-minute game. Lee had four hits to lead the team, while Rosa, Carnahan and freshman Cole Riser each had three hits.
Carnahan had five RBI for a game-high, finishing 3-for-7 at the plate with the grand slam, a double and an RBI single in the third inning. Carnahan also scored two runs and stole three bases.
Riser was the next-most productive hitter in the lineup, finishing 3-for-6 with a walk and two RBI singles.
The win will salvage a three-game series for McMurry, who picks up its first home win of the season.