Murphy homers twice, bats in 6 runs as Dirt Sox defeat Post 361 13-9
POWHATAN - Head coach Eric Mead has emphasized two key points about his Post 201 team and the American Legion baseball season.
First, what matters most is how his team is playing in the closing stretch.
Secondly, he's got the bats to compete.
It's now the end of the stretch.
And Post 201's bats are on fire.
Led by another monster night from Donovan Murphy, the Dirt Sox catapulted themselves out of an early 6-2 hole to deny Post 361 13-9 in their regular season finale.
Murphy crushed two home runs in his 2-for-3 batting performance and produced at least one RBI in each of his first three plate appearances for a grand total of six on the evening.
All three of his run-plating efforts were highlights: his two-run shot in the first inning tied the game early at 2-2, his sacrifice fly in the second again knotted up the game at 6-all, and - after a sac fly gave Post 361 the lead again - his three-run blast over the right field wall in the fourth lifted his team back to the point for good.
"Donovan has done such a good job with that - I think he struggled for about three games there in about the middle of the season and he worked hard to get his swing back," Mead said. "He's hitting the ball well right now."
But Murphy wouldn't have gotten four of his six RBIs without the effective approaches ahead of him in the lineup. His first homer tied the game thanks in part to Connor Woodel reaching base on a single. The fastball over the middle of the plate that he caught and drilled over the fence became a three-run play with the help of Tommy Preston smacking a single through the right-center gap and an error at shortstop that enabled Trevor Waters to reach base.
And the tying sac fly that Murphy launched to center field capped a fiery second-inning rally by the Dirt Sox. After Post 361 jumped ahead 6-2 with the help of a three-run bomb launched by Hayes Fallen, Post 201 loaded the bases with walks from Josh Boelt and Colby Cheatham and an infield single that Chase Gayness smacked to third base. Jacob Frame grounded into a fielder's choice at second base to plate Boelt, Preston took a hit by pitch to load the bases again, Waters landed an RBI single in right field and Woodel walked in a run to set up Murphy's play.
"We started out the season swinging the bat really good - we kind of dried up a little bit in the middle, but I think we've really come back with the bats strong this year," Mead said. "I think that, if pitching can hold up for us in the district tournament, I think, on the offensive side, we're doing a lot of things right."
Preston batted 3-for-4 with an RBI and scored three runs. Gayness batted 2-for-3 and scored three runs. Waters batted 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Murphy added two runs scored to his statline while ending the game by catching a lineout at first base. Woodel had two RBIs and scored a run.
The pitching win went to Stone Talley, who was among four pitchers to take the mound for Post 201 on Sunday. He took the hill with one out on the board in the fourth inning and delivered one and two-thirds innings of work. Behind Talley, Woodel at third base, Waters at catcher and Murphy at first base combined on a 5-2-3 double play with the bases loaded to pull Post 201 out of the fourth.
Mason McGhee rocked a solo shot in the top of the fifth, but Post 201 piled on four insurance runs in the following half-inning to pull away.
Mead said his team put the bats together well, and the pitching's starting to come around well.
"We pitched a lot of pitchers tonight, and I think in combination they did a very good job," Mead said. "I think we're set up well going into the district tournament and keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best."
And right now, the players are having fun.
"The team has been through a lot just with players coming and going and moving kids around, trying to find the right spots for them," Mead said. "I think they're sitting in a little bit of a comfort zone, a little bit of a comfort level right now, and they're having a good time playing together."
Sunday's win wasn't far removed from Post 201's dominant 14-4 rout of Post 284, a team that had earlier beaten them twice this season, on July 16. The opposing Bucs this season have been led by college returners and college commits.
"We're so very young," Mead said, "and to walk away with a win against 284 like that is just phenomenal, and even in that game, we just hit the ball from top to bottom of the lineup, so I'm very proud of their at-bats. We're doing a really good job with that."
Post 201 out-hit the Bucs 16-3. Preston crushed his first American Legion home run and batted 3-for-3 with three runs and a pair of RBIs in addition to earning the pitching win with four strikeouts and four and two-thirds innings of work. Murphy batted 2-for-4 with three RBIs, a run scored and a home run, Ben Balisteri batted 4-for-5 with two RBIs, two runs and a double, Waters had three RBIs and hit a double, Woodel batted 3-for-4 and scored a run, Alex Balisteri had a hit, two RBIs and a run scored, Talley doubled and scored two runs and Boelt had a hit and an RBI and scored three runs.
The Post 201 now awaits seeding for its first game in the upcoming district tournament.