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Younger Higgins lifts Vikes to First Region title game

By Daniel Paulling dpaulling@paducahsun.com

Fortunately for St. Mary, Matthew Higgins turned a sacrifice bunt into a sacrifice fly Tuesday.

His seventh-inning sacrifice fly gave the Vikings a 1-0 win against Calloway County in the First Region baseball tournament semifinals. It came the same at-bat he couldn't lay down a squeeze.

The Vikings play the winner of the Marshall County-McCracken County semifinal at 6 p.m. at Brooks Stadium. McCracken County led 1-0 in the third inning late Tuesday.

"They're both very good teams," Vikings coach Matt Smith said. "We make mistakes against either of those two teams, we're going to be in for a long night. We've got to clean up some of the mistakes we made defensively. We have to put the bat on the ball."

The Vikings went 1-2 against McCracken County this season. They won the first game 4-2 on May 6, were no-hit in a 5-0 loss May 8 and lost 4-1 in the Second District championship May 20.

St. Mary (19-5) didn't play Marshall County this season.

The Vikings advanced after a seventh-inning offensive outburst against Lakers starting pitcher Connor Wagner, who took the loss despite allowing one unearned run over 51⁠3 innings.

"Connor Wagner did a good job holding us," Vikings junior Matthew Higgins said. "With that many people on, there's only so long you can hold somebody. He was changing it up a little bit."

The rally came after John Higgins produced a one-out single to right field in the seventh. Vikings leadoff hitter Davis Sims then reached on a throwing error by Lakers shortstop Wade Carter. The misplay advanced Higgins to third and Sims to second.

Matthew - John's younger brother by one year - was then told to sacrifice bunt, but he couldn't make contact. John managed to scoot back to third base in time.

"I was surprised I didn't get my butt chewed out for missing it," Matthew said.

Matthew then lined a drive to deep right field that Travis Dwyer made a great play on, but it was a sacrifice fly that scored what proved to be the winning run against the Lakers (15-24).

The run, Vikings starting pitcher Austin Shaw says, helped immensely. He struggled in the bottom of the sixth but responded with a strong bottom of the seventh.

The right-hander hit consecutive batters with one out in the bottom of the sixth, and they advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. A Lofton Pigg walk loaded the bases with two outs, but Shaw induced a ground-out to send the game to the seventh tied at 0.

"I told the guys before this game this will be the toughest game of the year," Smith said. "It turned out that way. We bent a lot, but we didn't break."

St. Mary 000 000 1 1 4 2

Calloway County 000 000 0 0 2 3

Shaw and Johnston; Wagner, Orr (3), Wagner (4) and Brannon.

WP: Shaw; LP: Wagner

2B: StM-Darnell (2). 3B: none. HR: none. Multiple hitters: StM-Darnell 2-3.

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