Octavien Moyer stood on the mound late Tuesday night, the scoreboard showing zeroes on the home and visitor line in a District 2-7A semifinal against Niceville, and one thought was on the mind of the Navarre senior.
“I knew had to finish it,” Moyer said. “I didn’t want this to be our last game.”
Moyer made sure the Raiders advanced in the tournament, pitching a scoreless seventh after relieving starter Matt Cronin and then laying down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the inning to load up the bases. Tyler Reber’s grounder drove in Michael Sandle, who slid across home plate for the winning run in a thrilling 1-0 victory at home.
The pressure of the moment was enough to make some players fall apart under the weight of it.
Moyer, however, was ready to thrive in the face of it.
“I felt confident,” Moyer said. “It was one of the first times I actually got to warm up after going in. I knew I could get the outs.”
Moyer entered the game after starter Matt Cronin started having an issue with his hand. The Arkansas-bound pitcher struck out 14 in six innings and gave up only two hits, an impressive showing on a night when two Major League Baseball scouts were on hand to watch Cronin pitch.
“Matt was cramping up and I’m not going to ruin anyone’s career. It’s just a game,” Navarre head coach Scott Murphy said. “He kept us in it for six innings against a great team.”
Murphy had all of the faith in the world in Moyer when he signaled for him to take over.
“End of last year, I planned to make Octy a closer this year,” Murphy said. “He was going to be a four or five out guy. I had to bring him in. He has been in that position knows what to do. He did a great job.”
The Raiders (12-9), the reigning regular season district champs and defending district tournament champions, managed four hits. They loaded the bases twice but couldn’t push a run across. But their luck changed in the seventh after Sandle led off with a double and Cronin was intentionally walked.
Navarre stumbled into the tournament, dropping its final two games of the regular season, but Moyer said the difficult stretch didn’t concern them.
“We did a great job at practice and knew that if we kept our heads in the game we would be fine,” Moyer said.
The Raiders were indeed focused and now they will play for back-to-back district championships Thursday when they battle county rival Milton in a 6 p.m. showdown in Navarre.
“We have a great group of guys who have been through this before,” Murphy said. “We are playing a really good team and we have a chance to win another championship.”
Read more about the Raiders in the April 28 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.