Millcreek • With the Murray Spartans leading 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth Tuesday at Skyline High School, and two Eagles in scoring position, the best home run hitter in 4A, Kristin Tatum, stepped to the plate to face one of 4A's best pitchers in Elise Johnson.
Tatum had ripped a double off Johnson in the second inning, and drew a walk in the fourth after an epic 12-pitch at-bat.
As she has so many times in her career, Johnson came through when it mattered most, drawing a ground ball that third baseman Echo Lee fielded cleanly, and fired to first to quell the rally, sending Murray to a 6-0 victory.
"I have so much confidence in my teammates, and I know if I can get them to hit it on the ground, someone is going to make a play," Johnson said.
She did more than her part, shutting down a high-powered Skyline offense, driving in a run in the first inning, and putting an exclamation point on her final Region 7 game with a two-run homer in the 7th.
"She was awesome, like she always is," coach Lisa Parker said. "She's my rock out there, and no matter how tough things get, she stays cool, calm and collected."
Murray scored two runs in the first before Skyline pitcher Hailey Jensen settled in and held the Spartans scoreless in innings two through five.
While Skyline had its opportunities, every time the Eagles hit the ball hard, a Spartan defender was right there to make the play. While the defense was good, Parker is looking for more offense as the Region 7 top-seed Spartans head to the 4A tournament.
"We've worked a lot on our defense, and that showed today," Parker said. "I look up and see no runs in those middle innings, and we've got to do better than that."
R Murray pitcher Elise Johnson drives in three runs, including a two-run home run in the seventh, and pitches a four-hit shutout as the Spartans beat Skyline 6-0.
• Murray will enter the 4A tourney as Region 7's top seed. The Spartans lost just one region game and enter the state tournament with a 19-5 record.
• Murray coach Lisa Parker commends star pitcher Johnson on her seventh-inning home run. Parker notes that Johnson wasn't always considered a power hitter, but hard work in the offseason led to her team-leading third homer of the season.