MURRAY When Murray pitcher Chase Rezac struck out the first Cottonwood batter of the game, Eric Doi, only to see him reach base when the third strike went to the backstop, something said that it wasn't going to be the Spartans' day.
Cottonwood capitalized on that mistake and a couple of others to manufacture just enough runs to beat Murray 4-3 Thursday afternoon at Ken Price Park.
"We have some opportunistic kids," said Colts coach Jon Hoover. "We had a lot more chances to score some runs, but you have to give their pitcher some credit. We are a pretty good hitting team, and he kept us from getting in a rhythm out there. Still, our guys didn't quit, and they stayed positive and got the job done."
Murray came in as the leader in Region 6 with a record of 6-0, while Cottonwood was a game back in the loss column at 4-1. With a shot to pull even, Cottonwood didn't want to squander its opportunity.
"We tried not to think about it, but in the back of our heads maybe we knew," said the Colts' starting pitcher, Desmond Paulson, who picked up the win. "We wanted to just go out and play our normal game and keep every thought positive."
The positive thinking got a boost in the first inning as, after Doi reached on the strikeout, Stephen "pee-wee" Reese singled. Ryan Thomas walked following a strikeout to load the bases. Austin Robbs hit a ball hard that could have easily been turned into a double play, but an error allowed both Doi and Reese to score and give the Colts the lead.
Rezac came back with a solo home run in the bottom of the first, but Cottonwood added another run in the second when Austin Wadsworth singled, advanced to third on a Doi double and scored on a wild pitch.
After the Rezac homer, Paulson settled in for Cottonwood. He allowed only four more hits over the next 3 2/3 innings and kept Murray off balance.
"I was locating my fastball really well," said Paulson. "My curve was all right, but my split-finger was really dipping and keeping them guessing."
Paulson finished giving up three runs on five hits while striking out five and walking only one. His trouble came in the fifth inning when Nate Davis and Chaz Bollwinkel scored on a two-run single by Zach Owsley. Murray threatened to take the lead Cottonwood had gone up 4-1 in the top of the inning on a Corie Sullivan sacrifice fly but reliever Zach Adams got out of the mess by forcing an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third. He went the next two innings without allowing a hit."Both our pitchers did a great job today," said Hoover. "We are not where we want to be, but we are making progress. We are happy to be back up with the region leaders and know that we still have some work to do."