MORRISON – Crafty. Consistent. Controlled. Efficient. Dependable.
All of those words could be found describing Matt Murray on the back of his baseball card.
The lanky senior left-hander has a way on the mound that has made him a valuable commodity for the Oregon Hawks.
One word that wouldn't likely be on that card is slugger.
Yet, despite his masterful performance on the rubber for Oregon during its 5-2 win over Morrison on Monday in a quarterfinal of the 2A Stillman Valley Regional, it was his power at the plate that might be most memorable.
Murray stepped to the plate during the top of the seventh inning after Oregon has just reclaimed the lead at 3-2 on a RBI single by Tyler Blume.
The bases were loaded as Bill Greul, working his first inning in relief of sophomore sensation Joey Brackemyer, delivered the pitch to Murray.
The Hawk ace drilled the ball high and deep against a stiff wind, and it finally rattled off the front of the fence down the left-field line. Two more runs scored, and the Hawks (7-19) had a comfortable three-run lead.
"I've never hit the ball that hard in my life," Murray said. "I just don't hit balls like that. I've never hit a ball over the fence, but to get it that far with the wind like it was, that's something I'll never forget."
"Matt and Tyler both came up with big hits after we gave up the lead in the sixth," Oregon coach Adam Albrecht said. "That's what you want from your seniors. They stepped up when we need them."
Greul (6-3) started the seventh, after Morrison had plated two runs in the sixth to tie the score.
Like Brackemyer before him, Greul was tested to throw strikes by the Oregon batters. Joey Rowe and Adam Bittner coaxed walks to start the inning.
After Mason Smith popped out, Sawyer Reynolds hit a bloop single to right to load the bases for Blume.
"Bill has been such a big leader for this team the last 4 years," Morrison coach Ben Sondgeroth said. "We went to him to be our senior stopper. I think he came in a bit too revved up after the inning before, and started overthrowing the ball a little bit."
Murray (4-6) needed seven pitches – he threw only 74 in the game – to retire the Mustangs in the seventh.
Murray took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. While the wind hurt the break on his curveball, he was more than willing to throw strikes and let the Mustangs (16-6) hit the ball in the air.
"I don't throw to strike people out," Murray said. "I just try to throw strikes and get contact, and hope that my defense makes plays.
"They were swinging early in the count and that helped me out. Then I could hear their coach telling them to lay off the first pitch, so I figured I could sneak a fastball up there to get ahead."
Oregon scored once in the fourth, as Blume scored from second on a single to left by Luke Ziegler. The throw home by Andy Bird was off line, but catcher Justin Jensen retrieved it and threw to Brackemyer covering the plate.
It was a bang-bang play, but Blume was ruled safe.
The play came an inning after Kollin Burn threw Bittner out at the plate from right field.
Mason Smith's single in the fifth scored Joey Rowe to put Oregon up 2-0.
The Morrison bats – which had made some solid contact throughout the game – found the holes in the sixth.
Morrison's Ryan VanZuiden broke up the no-hitter with a single to lead off the sixth. Bird moved him to second on a bunt, and then he advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Ben Tegeler singled to short right, but Bird didn't score. Kollin Burn grounded out to score the Mustangs' first run. Jensen then tied the score with a single.
"I didn't think our approach at the plate was very good for most of the game," Sondgeroth said. "We weren't being patient, and Murray took advantage of that. He pitched a great game.
"This is rough. It's not easy to go on a 12 game winning streak to end the season, and then come out and drop one like this."
Brackemyer, who had allowed one earned run in 46 1/3 innings this season, allowed two against the Hawks. Oregon forced him into deep counts. While Brackemyer had nine strikeouts, he also had six walks, and he left the game after throwing 110 pitches in six innings.
Oregon advances to play top-seeded Byron at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Stillman Valley High School.
Star of the game: Matt Murray, Oregon, winning pitcher, took no-hitter into sixth inning, also had 2-run double
Key performers: Tyler Blume, Oregon, RBI, run scored; Justin Jensen, Morrison, RBI
Up next: 2A Stillman Valley Regional semifinal – No. 5 Morrison vs. No. 1 Byron, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday