Jon Shehan and the Marauders aren’t particularly familiar with the concepts of “losing streaks” or “sub .500 records.”
It’s not hard to see why—since the beginning of the 2013 season the Marauders have earned themselves an 83-36 record. When a team is winning 70 percent of the games they play, there just isn’t much time to spend dropping consecutive games and falling below .500. However, entering the weekend set with Pittsburg-Johnstown, the Marauders were just that.
“We didn’t expect to come home from Winston-Salem State 1-2,” said Shehan, head coach of the Marauders. “But the fact that we did didn’t change our mentality of focusing on the process… Our objectives are not based on whether we win or we lose.”
When losing streaks do roll around, however, Shehan and the Marauders know whom to turn to: Chris Murphy.
“Murphy’s Law” states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. However, when preceded with the word “Chris,” it becomes a very different law. The back-to-back PSAC East pitcher of the year has had a knack for winning games and breaking losing streaks, compiling a 23-4 record in three seasons at the ‘Ville.
When Murphy is on the mound, more often than not anything that can go right, will go right.
Entering their first triple-header since 2003 on a two-game losing streak, Murphy got the ball and, six innings later, got the win.
“I approach each game as if it is the first of the season,” said Murphy. “It doesn’t matter what I did or the team did last week, every game is a new one against a new opponent.”
Despite striking out almost eight batters per nine innings in his career, Murphy doesn’t approach eat batter looking for a K; instead, he prefers to trust his defense.
“My plan during games is to induce contact, because in my opinion, I have one of the best infield/outfield in Division II behind me. When you have great players backing you up, it is very easy to be confident.”
The 9-1 win helped propel the Marauders into the one-day, three-game sweep in which the Marauders outscored the Mountain Cats 30-10.
“[Murphy] has been the most consistent starter in the region for going on three years,” said Shehan. “It is hard to describe his value to our program when he takes the mound. Every time he pitches, our team knows that they have a great chance to win.”
Murphy’s 23 career wins puts him three away from claiming the top spot in Marauder history, a spot currently held by Tad Barton, who pitched briefly for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the Frontier League last fall.
Given that the fewest wins Murphy has earned in a year was his nine last season, it’s to be expected that Murphy will claim the top spot by the end of the season.
While the righty has established himself as one of the most dominant Division II pitchers in recent memory, he’s yet to establish his ability to pitch every game for the team. Fortunately, Shehan is confident in the arms in the rest of the rotation.
Redshirt junior Jim McDade made his second start of the season in game two, but lasted only three innings before being pulled for Dylan Boisclair. The reliever’s three shutout innings earned him his first win of the year as the Marauders held off a late push to top the Mountain Cats 11-8.
After a UPJ home run in the bottom of the first, the Marauders found themselves down three. Luckily, the Marauder bats remained hot. Run support was provided in part by the trio of Chas McCormick and the Stoltzfus cousins, Dan and Mitch. McCormick managed a two-run single in the third before following up homers by the Stoltzfus cousins with another RBI single in the seventh.
The six insurance runs in the top of the seventh were enough to seal a game-two win for the Marauders.
“Boisclair has been outstanding in his first two outings,” said Shehan of the southpaw sophomore. “This is not a surprise to our staff or his teammates. He has very good stuff and he extremely confident in himself.”
Boislair has now pitched seven innings in two relief appearances this season without allowing a run while fanning seven.
Despite two rocky outings for McDade, Shehan insisted that he still had complete confidence in his no. 2 starter.
“McDade is a veteran and I believe in him,” he said. “His first two starts this year could be positives by year’s end if he is able to learn from his mistakes and make adjustments. He is an intelligent young man; I am sure he will bounce back.”
In game three, no. 3 starter Brandon Miller followed up on his solid start against Winston Salem-State with another quality performance, this time allowing just one earned in five innings.
On the offensive side, Tyler Orris stole the show, tallying four hits including a double and a homer, three RBIs and a stolen base in the 10-1 win that capped off the sweep.
The rare triple-header leaves the team in perfect position to start Murphy on Feb. 20, when the three game set against Le Moyne kicks off.
While it’s easy to tell when Murphy is on fire when he’s on the mound, his demeanor isn’t as “fiery” as one might expect from the team ace.
“I am naturally a more reserved person in public,” said Murphy of his personality. “I’m not the best guy with the ‘rah-rah’ kind of stuff or telling guys what to do, but there is just something about game day that gets me fired up.
“I love to get under the other team’s skin and talk some trash from across the field. It’s just one of those things in baseball that I enjoy, and it seems to fire the other guys up as well.”
“He loves to compete and he brings energy to the ballpark on a daily basis,” said coach Shehan. “He loves to win and he instills that in his teammates.”
Murphy’s love of winning makes sense, logically. As Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
And that’s been working pretty well for him so far.