The game was what everyone was waiting for the entire week from the fans, the players, the coaches, and the media. It was the battle of Marshall County and the stands at the Richard Cashion Park were packed with orange and white. The media was out in full force with radio, T.V., and print coverage from the county.
There would be no funny pitch count substitutions in this game, the aces of the staff were on the hill and the coaches had come fully prepared for anything.
Cody Blackburn was on the mound for the Nats and he whiffed the first two American hitters in the first inning. After Austin Harber reached on an error, Malik Crawford walked and it looked like the Americans would break through early. Richie Smith ripped a single to right field and Bubba Houghton quickly got the relay back to Blackburn, who gunned down Harber at third to end the inning.
Leadoff man Aaron Hobbs walked in the bottom of the frame, but Zach Kirby hit a laser to center fielder Crawford who fired to the second baseman for a 7-4-3 double play.
The Nationals turned their own 6-4-3 double play in the top of the second to squelch an American mini-rally.
Andrew Giles led off the bottom of the second with an infield hit that turned into a three bagger because of a National throwing error. Horvath reared back for two consecutive strikeouts, but Hayden Bailey came through with the two-out RBI single to make it one-zip Americans.
Jesse Kilpatrick led off the top of the third for the Nats with a double to center field, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Horvath sac fly to tie the game at 1-1.
The Americans pushed across their second run of the game in the bottom of the frame on three consecutive singles by Hobbs, Kirby, and Dylan McKnight to go ahead 2-1. Horvath retired the next three straight to get out of the jam.
Crawford reached on an infield single to lead off the fourth inning and Richie Smith drilled a single to center that Crawford scored on when the Americans threw Smith out trying to get back to the bag after a big turn.
Horvath mowed down the Americans in the home half of the inning, whiffing them 1-2-3.
Kilpatrick's big fly difference in ballgame
Jesse Kilpatrick led off the fifth and worked a full count before he sent a towering shot over the center field fence for a 3-2 lead. Hobbs came in for the Americans and did a fine job of closing the door with no more damage.
The Nationals got two runners on base in the bottom of the fifth, but Horvath got out of trouble on a 6-3 grounder.
Hobbs worked the sixth, struck out the first two hitters, allowed two base runners, but he also got out of trouble with a grounder back to the box.
It was last chance city for the Nats and they made some noise when Bubba Houghton led off with a single to center. After an American error put runners at first and second, Hayden Bailey knocked a liner over the first base bag that Smith snared and dove to tag the bag for the unassisted double play. The game ended on a grounder to relief pitcher Jacob Maultsby, who ran for the bag and the last out.
The loss dropped the Americans into an Independence Day loser's bracket match-up with the Fayetteville Americans, who won an extra inning 8-7 battle over their cross-town rival Fayetteville Nationals. The Marshall Nationals, now in the driver's seat will play the winner in a Thursday night game.