The Kings host Johnstown at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at Carleton Davidson Stadium with a chance to gain ground in the standings before traveling first-half champion Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints on Friday night. The Kings finish the regular season at home against Chillicothe at 6:35 p.m. Saturday.
The second-half winner will travel to first-half winner Chillicothe for the Ohio River Valley Division championship game at a time to be determined on Sunday.
On Wednesday night, the Kings nearly pulled even in the standings. Champion City led 6-2 in the fifth inning, but the Mill Rats scored three runs in the seventh and one each in the eighth and ninth innings to earn a 7-6 come-from-behind victory. Evan Lorey, Trey Carter, Edrick Padilla and Ben Stuart each had two hits for the Kings.
“The biggest thing is when you get a chance, you’ve got to do your job,” Murphy said. “The turning point in the game was when we had bases loaded with one out (in the seventh inning) and didn’t score. That hurts. … We didn’t catch any breaks either, but you can’t put that game on anybody but us. We had it, it was ours, but we just didn’t get it.”
Entering Thursday’s game, the Mill Rats are 14-11 in the second half, two games ahead of the Kings (12-13). Johnstown also owns the playoff tiebreaker, claiming the head-to-head season series against Champion City.
“It’s make or break,” Murphy said “We’ve got to win. The biggest thing is getting these guys to rest up and understand that we can’t put any pressure on ourselves and just come out and have fun. That’s what we’ve been doing the last couple weeks and we’ve got to keep doing it.”
The Kings are seeking their second straight playoff berth. Last season, the Kings advanced to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, beating Chillicothe 10-9 to win the Prospect League Ohio River Valley Division Championship. The Kings fell 15-5 at Lafayette in the Eastern Conference championship game.
Champion City knows it will need to keep winning and get some help to make another playoff run.
“We’re coming together and finding ways to win games,” Murphy said. “That’s what we’ve got to do these next three games.”