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Drury walks tightrope to pitch team to victory
Notre Dame's two starters delivered at the final four.
SPRINGFIELD -- Senior Dylan Drury pitched in some tight situations and out of a few difficult jams despite Notre Dame posting an 18-4 rout over Carl Junction in the Class 3 championship game.
Yes, Notre Dame won by 14 runs, but it had just a two-run lead when Carl Junction's offense threatened to tie the contest in the bottom of sixth. The first two Carl Junction batters singled to start the sixth.
Drury knew he needed a strikeout.
"I knew I needed to strike out at least one of the next two guys on my own and then hopefully get a double play or something," Drury said.
Drury struck out the next two batters -- Jake Stevenson and Travis Green -- the Nos. 2 and 3 hitters in the Carl Junction lineup. He threw a wild pitch in between the strikeouts, so both runners advanced into scoring position.
But Drury battled with two outs, getting cleanup hitter Seth Spencer, who had reached base in all three of his previous at-bats, to ground out to second base to squash the rally.
"Going out there and striking out two guys in a row was huge for me," Drury said. "A confidence booster. That third [out] was just [big] and to finish the inning was good for my confidence and good for the team because they didn't put any more runs on the board.
"I think I was feeding off a lot of adrenaline the last two innings."
Drury then stepped to the plate to lead off the top of the seventh inning and stroked a single. He had been retired in all three of his previous plate appearances before the seventh-inning single.
"Our guys just feed off each other," Drury said about his hit. "It's real contagious. One hit just leads to another. I knew if somebody started something then it would work out good for us and it did."
It certainly sparked a rally.
That single was followed by nine more Notre Dame hits as it scored 12 times that frame to help Drury experience a stress-free bottom of the seventh.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said that ace Colton Young has been able to battle out of jams all spring, but Drury has struggled at times when in a pinch.
"Colton finds ways out of those jams all year long and that's probably why he probably pulled ahead and could be considered the ace of our staff," Graviett said. "He gets in a little bit of trouble and reaches back for a little something extra and makes those big outs. And today, that is what Dylan did.
"That situation [in the sixth] was probably the play of the game minus the big -run inning. But to come out of that situation unscathed and to get the strikeouts when he did, that's his maturity as a pitcher and stepping up and being a leader for us today."
Drury went the distance, giving up four runs, two earned, on eight hits. He struck out 12 and walked six.
"The curveball today was probably the best it's worked for me ever," Drury said. "That was probably the sharpest break I've ever had and threw it for strikes as much as I've ever done. And the fastball, too. I had a little pop on it."
Drury also escaped without allowing a run after the first two batters reached in the fourth. He allowed baserunners in every inning except the second.
"It was awesome knowing that I had control of our destiny," Drury said about pitching the title game. "The confidence the coaches have in me, it's just fun. I had a little bit of butterflies, but I knew that if I was too nervous then stuff wasn't going to go our way."