Joe Musgrove has had his strongest year in pro ball and he wasn't ready for the season to end just yet. And although he was tied for first in the New York-Penn League with seven wins, all of those triumphs would have counted for little if he didn't deliver in his final and most meaningful start of the year.
Musgrove allowed two hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings to help the short-season Tri-City ValleyCats beat the State College Spikes, 3-0, in Game 2 of the New York-Penn League Finals on Monday evening.
The victory tied the best-of-3 Championship Series and set up a dramatic winner-take-all finale Tuesday night.
"It was good, man," California native Musgrove said. "It was a good game and I thought I threw really well. My last outing of the year, the last chance to give everything I had. I threw everything I had and I gave everything. For my last outing to mean so much to the team and the fans, it was huge."
Musgrove struck out the side in the first inning and stranded Alex De Leon, who doubled to lead off the second, at third base an inning later. The 21-year-old right-hander retired 13 of 14 batters before Darren Seferina singled to right field with one out in the sixth, and only one other Spikes batter reached base against him the rest of the way.
"There are always nerves in a situation like this, but the game is still the game," said Musgrove, originally selected by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2011 Draft and later acquired by the Nationals in the nine-player deal that sent David Carpenter to the Blue Jays in 2012.
"I stuck to what I do best and I struck to my strengths. This was one of the biggest outings I've had in pro ball in my four years. This team has a lot of heart. Tomorrow we'll stick to our plan again and stay within ourselves and I think we will come out on top. We didn't put up too many hits last night, but today we rose to the occasion. They gave me a cushion and that's all you want as a pitcher."
Tri-City's Ryan Thompson tossed a hitless eighth and Derick Velazquez worked around a hit and a work in the ninth to seal the shutout. Derek Fisher went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored and leadoff hitter Alex Hernandez was 3-for-4 with a run.
State College's Austin Gomber (0-1) surrendered three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and two walks while striking out two batters over two innings.
Game 3 will take place in Tri-City at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.