Late-Inning Heroics Give Columbia First Win of Season

Junior right-hander Eric Lax pitched six innings and recorded eight strikeouts against MKA. Credits: Mike Romano
Lev Schecter receives the relay throw from Anthony Starzynski in time to tag out the runner at third base.​ Credits: Mike Romano
The Columbia Cougars ambush Ryan Murphy after his walk-off single gave them their first win of the season. Credits: Mike Romano
Sophomore Jihad Freeman makes a diving catch on a shallow fly ball for Columbia. Credits: Mike Romano
Shortstop Quinn Krais picks up an assist as he throws out a runner at first base. Credits: Mike Romano

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning in a tie game, junior Ryan Murphy delivered the decisive single to score Lev Schecter from second base and give Columbia High School its first victory of the season.

"I was just looking for the right pitch," Murphy said. "I knew that if I could get it in the outfield then it would end the game."

The Cougars edged Montclair-Kimberley Academy, 4-3, on Wednesday afternoon to improve their record to 1-4 on the season.

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Murphy missed the very beginning of the season due to a concussion, but said that he is feeling a lot better now that he’s back on the diamond.

“He (Murphy) hasn’t been himself, but the last couple of games he’s started to hit the ball and I think that was an example of what he's capable of doing when he does what he’s supposed to do,” head coach Joe Fischetti said.

Columbia struck first when MKA pitcher Jack Besser walked four straight batters after retiring the first two in the bottom of the third inning. Senior Brendan Clark added a bases-loaded single to give his team a 2-0 lead.

MKA responded in the top of the fourth when Columbia pitcher Eric Lax gave up back-to-back singles to Matt McAuliffe and Connor Nolan. Robert Wong continued the trend with a single that scored McAuliffe, but Nolan was thrown out at third trying to take the extra base. On a stolen base attempt, Wong came around to score after a throwing error by Clark sent the ball deep into center field.

Columbia took the lead back in the bottom half of the inning by playing small ball. Anthony Starzynski led the inning off with a walk and then proceeded to steal second and third base. After a pop out by Jesse Evans, Lax grounded one to second for an out, but Starzynski scurried home just before the throw to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Lax ran into trouble in the sixth inning when he faced Nolan with runners on first and second with one out. Nolan, who had two singles against Lax already, sized up the pitch and ripped it down the line to drive in a run, and put his team in position to take the lead. Columbia intentionally walked Wong to load the bases and set up a double play.

Lax settled down, and struck out the next two batters to limit the damage and give his Cougars a chance to win. Lax tossed six innings and struck out eight batters, but received a no decision for the day.

“It wasn’t an easy six innings because he had to battle in every one,” Fischetti said. “He's a bulldog on the mound, and he’s going to fight for us and give me whatever he has.”

Sophomore Sam Berkeley pitched a scoreless seventh inning and picked up the win for Columbia before Murphy ended the game in the bottom half of the inning. Murphy finished the game going 2-for-2 with two singles, two RBIs, a walk and a stolen base.

Columbia will send freshman Danny Boehmer to the mound when the Cougars play at Caldwell High School at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

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