The thoughts going through head coach Dan Skirka’s and every Racer fans mind when Tyler Duke proved that baseball is a game of inches as his base hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game landed just fair down the left field line to give Murray State an 8-7 victory over Jacksonville State, Friday afternoon at Reagan Field.
“It was a fastball inside and I thought I hit it pretty good,” said Duke, who had never hit a walkoff before. “I thought it was going to stay fair, but it started going foul and scared me, but it stayed fair and I’m glad for that.”
For the Racers, it is their first win in the opening game of a series this season as they improve to 5-2 in the OVC and 9-12 overall. The Gamecocks fall to 2-2 in conference play and 10-12 overall.
It was not easy for MSU as they trailed 5-0 after two innings, but four runs in the final two innings capped a comeback over the team picked second in the OVC preseason poll.
“The fight from the guys was amazing. They never gave up,” said Skirka. “The bullpen came in and did a great job putting up zeroes when we needed them. Our hitters kept plugging away and we got to their bullpen which is awesome.”
Four Racers had multiple hits led by Wes Schad with three. Duke and Jake Slunder each had two RBI and eight of the nine starters scored a run.
After Trevor McMurray struggled early, Joe Ivey kept the Racers in the game, retiring 11 straight to begin his outing en route to throwing 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out two.
The Gamecocks scored five runs in the second to take an early lead with a three-run home run Alex Webb being the big hit of the inning.
Jordan Holly started the Racers’ comeback in the third as he singled to start the inning before stealing second. Slunder then hit a grounder to short, but the throw to try to cut down Holly at third hit Holly in the helmet and bounced away, allowing Holly to score. Brock Anderson followed with a double and him and Slunder both came into score when the third baseman could not handle a hard grounder by Schad.
After a couple of scoreless innings by both teams, the Racers cut their deficit to one when Duke hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Bryan Chilton, who had doubled earlier in the inning.
JSU scored a run in the top of the eighth to bring their lead back to two runs, but Murray State answered with two runs in the home half of the inning. Jaron Robinson singled and Duke walked before a clutch double steal put runners on second and third with two outs for Slunder, who delivered with a two-run game-tying single.
The Gamecocks retook the lead in the ninth with a solo home run, but the Racers fought back with two runs in the ninth to win the game.
Ryan Perkins began the inning with a seven-pitch walk. After a strikeout, Sean Darmafall fought off three 0-2 pitches before taking four straight balls to make it first and second. Another walk to Robinson loaded the bases for Chilton, who hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. A fourth walk of the inning to Jordan Holly then set up the heroics for Duke as he sent a 1-0 pitch looping down the left-field line, landing just fair beyond a leaping Coach Skirka in the third base coaching box and prompting the Racers to storm out of the dugout to mob Duke around second base.
The Racers and Gamecocks will continue their series with game two tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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