By Brad Fauber
NEW MARKET -- Stonewall Jackson junior Matt Murphy picked an excellent time to put together what he called his best pitching performance of the season on Monday afternoon.
The left-hander went the distance against visiting Luray in the Conference 35 baseball tournament quarterfinals, as Murphy shut down the No. 5 Bulldogs to send the fourth-seeded Generals to a 3-1 victory.
It was Stonewall Jackson's first playoff victory in recent memory and advances them to tonight's semifinal at Strasburg with a berth in next week's 2A East regional tournament on the line. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"We're definitely pumped to get into it. It's been awhile since we've advanced, so I think we're pretty pumped to get in," Murphy said.
"I felt like I pitched pretty good. My curveball was on. It was one of my better performances, I think. It's my first conference game I've pitched in -- I thought I did pretty good."
Murphy surrendered just the lone earned run on five hits and a walk. The lefty also struck out eight.
"He's been throwing well all year. He's had a couple bad outings, that's why his ERA is a little higher than it should be, but he's won four games for us this year, so he's stepped up for us," Generals coach Mike Lenox said of Murphy.
Stonewall Jackson (8-10) struggled at the plate against Luray (4-16) starting pitcher Keaton Seal, who also pitched the entire six innings for the Bulldogs, but the Generals did manage some early run support for Murphy.
Generals senior Colton Harlow led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and came in to score on a two-out single through the left side of the infield by senior Daniel Buhl (2-for-3).
Luray tied it up with a run in the top of the third, as Jacob Moyer singled with two outs, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Seal.
Harlow came around to score again in the bottom of the third inning to regain the lead for Stonewall Jackson. Harlow reached base on a one-out walk and stole second before coming home on a throwing error on a grounder by Cole Holsinger.
"We didn't hit very well, but we got it done," said Harlow, who was 1-for-3 with two runs scored. "We put the bat on the ball a little bit. Eight hits isn't too bad.
"It seems like we came out motivated more than usual. The past two games we came out feeling confident and knowing that we can do things. We just fed off of that."
Stonewall added another run with a two-out rally in the fourth inning. Brett Jones reached on a single to right field, and an error on a Dylan Vann grounder extended the inning for the Generals. Junior Kory Somers then doubled to right-center to score Jones and give Stonewall a 3-1 lead.
Murphy cruised from there, as he scattered three hits over the final four innings en route to the victory.
"We've been on the opposite ends of these a lot pretty much since I've been here, so it was pretty nice to come out on top," Lenox said. "This is the first playoff win that we've had in probably a good while, so it's nice for them.
"Overall, we found a way to win at that's what you need to do at this time."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD