Murray • Arik Mack despised the feeling he experienced after his team's premature ouster from the state tournament last year.
He and his powerful left arm set out to avoid similar feelings during his senior campaign.
Mack pitched a complete game for Maple Mountain, allowing only three runs and recording 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Murray in a Class 4A state baseball winners bracket quarterfinal.
"We knew coming here that these guys won their region, so we knew they were going to bring all their stuff," Mack said. "It feels awesome [to get the win], and we're rolling now."
Murray was off-balance from the start after Mack struck out the side in the first inning. It didn't get much better for the Spartans. Maple Mountain's senior sent six consecutive Murray batters back to the dugout via strikeout over the third and fourth innings.
"I'm not shocked," Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner said. "Arik is a fantastic pitcher, and he has command of all of his pitches. He's confident in all of his pitches, and you saw the results of that. [Murray] didn't really have a real good feel for it."
Freshman Kade Poulsen took care of the rest with an RBI in the second inning and three more in the Golden Eagles' four-run fifth.
The game never was really in doubt, but things started to get interesting in the seventh after Mack balked twice and allowed two runs to score. But he struck out Nick Smart to end the game, then breathed a sigh of relief as he walked off the mound to celebrate with his teammates.
"Four [teams] are gone, eight [teams] have a loss at this point, so yeah, it's obviously a driver's seat situation," Miner said.
"You just have to trust yourself and build on it, and get to the next level. We're in good shape, and we played well. … But we're in uncharted territory now."