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Vikings rally leads to All A championship

By Daniel Paulling dpaulling@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - After Murray scored two first-inning runs against St. Mary ace Nick Eggemeyer on Wednesday, Vikings coach Matt Smith asked his players if they were awake yet.

The answer? A resounding yes!

The Vikings responded with six unanswered runs in a 6-2 win against Murray for the First Region All A Classic baseball championship at Graves County High School. They earned their fourth First Region All A title since 2004 and second in three years.

The Vikings play the Second Region champion next, a game Smith hopes will be next week.

They advanced after rallying for three runs in the second inning and two in the third.

"They didn't get rattled," Smith said. "They stayed composed. That's what I've been wanting to see, is how we do while behind. We haven't been behind a whole lot this year. For us to bounce back like we did and manufacture some runs - they did a good job."

Vikings right fielder Austin Shaw singled home the first run, and center fielder John Higgins followed with a sacrifice fly that tied the score at 2. Shaw then scored on an error for a 3-2 lead.

The Vikings (10-2) then scored both their third-inning runs on another Tigers error.

Five stolen bases over those innings, and eight in nine attempts, spurred them.

"We were getting good reads of the pitcher," said Vikings second baseman Ben Hopper, who went 2 for 3 with four stolen bases. "We were confident on the bases."

Tigers coach Mitch Grogan said catcher B.J. Elder has been limited by turf toe in his right foot but added the team needs to improve at limiting how often opponents steal bases.

"We've got to get better at holding runners at second," Grogan said. "We've worked on that this week a fair amount. We didn't use it in the game. We got to get faster to the plate."

The Tigers (5-11) jumped to their 2-0 lead after consecutive doubles by Luke Brown and Zack Grogan to start the game. First baseman Dustin Bevil then produced an RBI groundout, and catcher Tanner Foster followed with an RBI single.

Just four batters into the game, the Vikings were already trailing.

"In that first inning when they got on the board, we were a little surprised," Hopper said. "It was a shock to us. They came out with some fire for sure. They gave us all we could handle."

But Eggemeyer settled down enough for the Vikings offense to strike back. He allowed two baserunners with one out in the second inning but induced consecutive strikeouts to end the threat. Eggemeyer added two scoreless innings to earn the win.

Brown took the loss for the Tigers, allowing five runs (two earned) over four innings. Shaw added three scoreless innings in relief of Eggemeyer to earn a save.

"It's the most fun I've ever had on a baseball field," Hopper said. "That was our goal at the beginning of the season: win an All A regional. We've got some more work to do. We can make some noise down in sectionals and state. That's our goal."

Murray      200      000      0          2 5 2

St. Mary    032      001      X         6 8 0

Brown, Alderson (5) and Elder; Eggemeyer, Shaw (5) and Johnston.

WP: Eggemeyer. LP: Brown.

2B: Mur-Brown, Grogan; StM-Johnston. 3B: none. HR: none. Top hitters: Mur-Foster 1-3 (RBI), Brown 1-3; StM-Hopper 2-3, J. Higgins 1-2 (RBI).

Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.

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