Coming into the first of a three-game series against Eastern Kentucky, there was a chance freshman Logan Gray wasn’t going to be healthy enough to play.
A stomach bug had previously been spreading to different members of the APSU team, and Gray was hit with it earlier in the week. All week while the team was practicing, Gray laid in his room with IVs and medicine in him, and didn’t start going to class until Thursday. On Friday, Gray stepped on the field for the first time since the series finale at Belmont last weekend, and overcame the layoff when the game was on the line.
The shortstop tied the game with two outs in the final inning, and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Govs a 6-5 walk-off victory against the Colonels.
“He almost didn’t play tonight. It was a last second decision,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “I’m really proud of him. He got two huge hits, and hung in there to make a big impact.”
The game couldn’t have started any worse for the shortstop, however. The first batter of the game, Kyle Nowlin, hit a grounder to Gray, but the throw wasn’t on line as he rushed to try and get the fast lead off man. Nowlin also reached in the second inning on a fielding error by Gray, who said there were some nerves coming into the game due to not being out there regularly.
Despite the early blunders, Gray stepped up in the clutch when it was his turn to redeem himself.
After the offense was shut down through six innings where only two men would reach base, the bats came alive in the seventh with four runs off EKU starter Tanner Perkins. The Govs sent nine to the plate, who totaled five hits to go along with a sacrifice fly, with Gray delivering the game-tying single from the bottom of the lineup.
EKU answered back to take the lead in the top of the ninth off A.J. Gaura, who earned the win, with a RBI single by Sean Hagen. But once Ridge Smith led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and was bunted over to second by P.J. Torres, McClure knew Gray was coming up soon. Gray singled home Smith, and trotted home two batters later as EKU closer Anthony Bazzani made a wild pitch to the plate.
“I just went up there and didn’t try to do too much,”Gray said. “That’s kind of my down fall when I get in those situations. I knew he (Bazzani) was a pretty good pitcher with velo (velocity) and I just kept my swing short, and relaxed up there to not get too nervous.”
In the pitching department, freshman Alex Robles followed up his complete game performance at Belmont with another quality start on Friday. The right-hander pitched seven innings due to a high pitch count of 124, and allowed four runs with just one being earned on eight hits.
Not to mention the fact he topped his career-high again in strikeouts, racking up 13 against the Colonels.
“Oh, nice. I was hoping for like 28 or something,” Robles said jokingly when notified of how many he recorded.
The win was not only big because of a walk-off, but also in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. The Govs now sit at 9-10 in conference, which is tied with EKU and Murray State for sixth. They now have two more chances against the Colonels, beginning Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m.
“Tonight’s a huge win for us,” McClure said. “Instead of being two games down to these guys, we’re tied with them. We’re pushing our way back in this thing. We’re playing the teams head-to-head we need to beat, and that’s a huge win. We keep looking for something to spark us, because we’ve been pretty good the past three weeks, but we have’t been able to string wins together. Maybe this will be the thing that sparks our club.”
Photo: Logan Gray (Corey Adams/The All State)