STERLING – Momentum hovered about 6 feet above the baseball diamond during the third inning at Newman High School on Monday.
It was dusted up into the air off the shoulders of the visiting Oregon Hawks in a 2A Oregon Regional quarterfinal game against the Comets by a single to center by Michael Ely.
There it rested a moment trying decide if it would place its favor upon the legs of A.J. Sharp as he motored around third base, or if it would swoop down to the arm of Ian Holley in center field.
It picked Holley, who threw a laser from center to catcher Joey Rowe to beat Sharp at the plate by less than a step.
Momentum's decision proved fatal for the Comets' season, as the Hawks eliminated them with a 9-3 win. Oregon will play Princeton at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Oregon in a regional semifinal.
"When I am out there pitching," Oregon hurler Matt Murray said, "I am depending completely on my defense. I'm not going to strike out a bunch of guys. I need the defense, and today we had a lot of big plays. Ian made a huge throw from center to keep them from having a big inning."
The Comets had loaded the bases with no outs in the third off of Murray (2-2), who had seen much of his season derailed by a case of mononucleosis.
The inning started with singles by Kyle Moore and Matt Wagenecht. Dillan Heffelfinger then reached on an error.
Sharp followed by grounding to third. The force was made at home, but Sharp reached first base.
A groundout by Colin McGinn yielded the first run of the inning. After that, Ely singled into center to score one run before Sharp was gunned down at the plate.
"That just killed our momentum," Newman coach Tom Wilson said. "From then on, we just didn't put much pressure on them. We keep that inning going and maybe it's a different game."
The bottom of the third was so important for the Comets because the top of the third had been been a disaster.
Three errors led to six unearned runs.
Newman starter Quincy Coomes nearly worked out of disaster. After the first two batters reached on errors, Coomes struck out the next two looking.
The Hawks didn't let the chance slip. Luke Ziegler singled to score Alex Cain. An Ian Holley single followed by Adam Bettner reaching on another error set the table for Rowe, who drove in two with a single.
Tyler Blume then delivered another big blow with a triple.
"The unearned runs were what go us today," Wilson said. "They made the plays when they had to, and we kept giving them extra outs."
Murray pitched all seven innings, striking out three and walking two.
"Matt is one of those guys that just throws strikes," Oregon coach Adam Albrecht said. "He can throw seven innings without getting his pitch count really high. He's always around the zone."
Newman's defense settled down after the third behind reliever Trevor Bolin, who allowed one run in four innings while striking out four.
Star of the game: Matt Murray, Oregon, 7 IP, 3 R, 2ER, 3 SO, 2 BB)
Key performers: Tyler Blume, Oregon, 3B, 2 RBIs; Colin McGinn, Newman, 2 RBIs
Up next: 2A Oregon Regional semifinal – No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 1 Princeton, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday