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Kyle Davis (Southern California) had just finished off the last of four scoreless innings and jogged out to the bullpen in the middle of the 12th. He gave Chatham’s offense three chances to break an extra-innings tie with Hyannis but it hadn’t. It was about to start its fourth, and Davis made a bold prediction.
“A.J. (Murray) is going to go walk-off taco right here, first pitch,” he said for the whole bullpen to hear.
And the right-handed reliever foresaw the future. Murray (Georgia Tech) ended the game.
“Oh man that was special,” Chatham manager John Schiffner said. “This is fun. You love games like this and I’m so happy for A.J.”
Murray’s 12th-inning walk-off blast came on Ian Gibaut’s first pitch, and gave the Anglers (8-8-1) a 5-4 win over the Harbor Hawks (10-7) at Veterans Field on Sunday night. The hit also made a winner out of Davis and a loser of Gibaut, after Davis blanked Hyannis with four strikeouts in as many frames.
Right as Murray’s bat collided with Gibaut’s fastball, Chatham streamed out of the dugout and bullpen. Murray’s home-run trot was brisk and ended with a thud on home plate before his teammates formed a bouncing amoeba around him. When Murray addressed the media down the left-field line after the game, Lou Distasio (Rhode Island) ambushed him with a handful of cake that ended up smeared about the first baseman's face.
“I haven’t hit a walk-off run since I was a kid, like really young,” Murray said. “He was a new pitcher so I knew he was going to come in with a fastball and try and get one over. So I jumped on it.”
A late three-run home run ended in a 5-4 Chatham loss in Brewster on Saturday night. So after Carl Wise’s solo home run nudged the Harbor Hawks ahead in the top of the eighth, it seemed like the Anglers were headed down an all too familiar path. But Chris Shaw (Boston College) led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and Murray moved him up to third on a sacrifice bunt.
And instead of rolling out Robert Baldwin (Yale) — who had an RBI single and threw out a runner at second in the game — Schiffner took to the chess board. He pinch hit Nick Collins (Georgetown) to create a favorable matchup against right-handed reliever Lance Thonvold, and it proved to be the right move when a looping single found grass in left field and brought Shaw across the plate.
“We gambled and it worked,” Schiffner said.
“To come up and get that hit for the team felt good,” Collins added.
Then the score froze and the actual scoreboard, which only has 10 frames, went blank before the top of the first became the top of the 11th. Davis and switch-pitching reliever Ryan Perez turned the extra innings into a pitcher’s dual, and it wasn’t until Perez left the game that that dual gave way to a winner.
The game — when the Harbor Hawks retreated and Anglers rejoiced — had something for everyone. Murray looked to have hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th, but Donnie Dewees Jr. made a diving catch that was eventually ruled a foul ball. Kal Simmons (Kennesaw State) faced Perez as both a right-handed and left-handed pitcher. The game was three outs away from ending in what would have been Chatham’s second 12-inning tie of the season.
And then the night fittingly finished with a hero picking celebratory cake out of his right ear.
Said Murray, a smile stretched across his face: “I was just trying to get it started with a single or something. Obviously it ended up better than that.”