As darkness descended upon Kennedy High's baseball field Wednesday, right fielder Brandon Murphy of North Hollywood faced the most difficult of challenges.
There were two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Kennedy had the tying and winning runs at second and third. Pinch hitter Enrique Navarrete drove a fly ball to right field. In daylight, it would be a routine catch. In darkness, it was a potential horrifying experience.
"I didn't even see the ball off the bat," Murphy said. "But I took off when I heard my name called."
Center fielder Jose Avila directed Murphy to the ball. He stuck out his glove and made the catch, preserving a 4-3 victory for North Hollywood in an opening game of the San Fernando Valley Invitational.
The Huskies, considered the East Valley League title favorites, had their bats and gloves working. They collected nine hits off Kennedy pitchers Jack Cassel and Tim Arroyo, with eight line drives. Their outstanding infield, led by shortstop Jerrit Redlich, made every play.
Edgar Pineda limited Kennedy to one run and three hits in six innings, walking four and striking out three. This is not one of Kennedy's better hitting teams, but Pineda was successful throwing his curveball for strikes.
The game was tied, 1-1, until Kennedy broke down defensively in the fifth inning. Errors by shortstop Manny Bernal and third baseman Phil Arias allowed the Huskies to score two runs.
In the seventh, Murphy came in to pitch and couldn't get an out. The Cougars loaded the bases on a hit batter, single and walk. He was sent to right field. In came Jose Figueroa, who immediately got a strikeout, then walked in a run and got a forceout for the second out.
With the game on the line and little light to keep on playing, the Huskies refused to crack.
"When it was getting crunch time, I told [everyone], 'Remember the marathon,' " Redlich said.
North Hollywood players have run and finished the L.A. Marathon the past two years. That's how they learned to get through anything.
They pulled through again on Murphy's catch.