MURRAY -- It wasn't the 10-run rule Austin Swain envisioned, but behind the reliable arm of Jared Gray, the Murray Tigers advanced back to the First Region All "A" Classic championship game on Thursday.
Gray threw a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed just two hits in going the distance to lift the Tigers to a 5-0 win over Hickman County.
He needed more than 100 pitches, but saved enough gas for the final inning by retiring the final three batters of the game.
"I didn't think Jared had his best stuff, actually," Murray head coach Austin Swain said. "He didn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes and was behind on a lot of batters, especially late in the game, but I give him a lot of credit for battling on a lot of those at-bats."
Most of Murray's offense came in the early innings, as it went right to work on Hickman ace Parker Estes. Will Shelton drove in the first run with adouble in the first inning, with the Tigers capitalizing on a crucial Hickman error in the next frame.
After back-to-back singles, an error on a bunt attempt from Hunter Utley drove in a pair of runs to give Murray the early 3-0 lead.
"Good luck for us, but a good job by Hunter to get the bunt down when we needed to," Swain said.
A sacrifice fly scored Utley and Murray tacked on one more run in the fifth when Victor Hudspeth scored on a three-base error.
"We started off the game real well and kind of got flat there in the middle innings," Swain said. "At the rate we were going, it was looking like we would have a 10-run game, which is what I was wanting. But the guys got flat and got on their heels a little bit."
That was mainly due to Estes, who found his groove as the game went on. The Hickman ace threw seven strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs.
But it's a win for Murray, which advances to tonight's 6 p.m. All "A" championship to face the winner of Carlisle County and Mayfield. Late Thursday the teams were tied 6-6 in extra innings.
Hickman 000 000 0 0 2 2
Murray 10 010 X 5 7 2
2B: M-Shelton. 3B: M-Crady. HR: None. Top hitters: M-Bogard 2-3 (R), Utley 0-2 (2 RBI). Records: Murray 7-1, Hickman 3-4.
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