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Murphy shows promise at APU before injury

Joe Naiman

Village News Correspondent

If it’s any consolation to Sam Murphy, Jason Bay broke his right wrist in his third major league game and won the National League’s Rookie of the Year award the following season.

Murphy broke his wrist in his fourth collegiate game, ending his 2010 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics playing season for Azusa Pacific University. “We’re certainly bummed out for Sam,” said Azusa Pacific coach Paul Svagdis. “He’s doing awesome. We’re real proud of him and everything he did in such a short period of time. We’re bummed because he’s added a spark to the lineup.”

Murphy was playing shortstop for Azusa Pacific during a March 25 home game against Concordia when he dove for a first-inning fly ball and landed on his wrist. He underwent surgery April 2.

“It’s been a wild year,” Murphy said. “It was a bummer that I only got to play three games and an inning, but it was a lot of fun.”

Murphy graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2009 and was expected to redshirt for the 2010 baseball season. “We thought we were going to be older at that position,” Svagdis said.

Svagdis’ plans to utilize veteran middle infielders were revised after the expected starting second baseman took the semester off due to family issues and the planned starting shortstop underwent eye surgery for a non-baseball situation. “It just kind of opened some things up,” Svagdis said. “Because we’re so young in that position I felt Sam had the ability to compete right away and help us out.”

Although playing in 2010 was expected to wipe out his redshirt year, Svagdis felt that Murphy’s contributions merited spending his freshman eligibility on a partial season. “We felt that he had an opportunity to play every day,” Svagdis said.

“Sam took that opportunity at full speed,” Svagdis said. “He jumped at it, had a great week of practice.”

The Cougars took an eight-game losing streak into Murphy’s first collegiate games, a March 20 doubleheader at home against Point Loma Nazarene. Murphy started both games at shortstop and hit ninth in the batting order.

Murphy faced Point Loma starter Chad Blauer in his first collegiate plate appearance. With two outs in the bottom of the second inning and Daniel Gonzales on second he beat out a bunt to third baseman Wes Kartch and then advanced to second when Kartch’s throw was wild, an error which allowed Gonzales to score and give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.

Murphy first fielded a ball in the top of third inning, when Allen Boyer popped up for the third out. He first fielded a ground ball when Alex Cameron led off the top of the fourth with the grounder to Murphy, who threw to first baseman Brice Cutspec for the out.

With Trevor Lothrop on first and nobody out in the bottom of the fourth, Murphy hit a sacrifice bunt to first baseman Jeff Fox to advance Lothrop to second. Lothrop subsequently scored on Ryan Henley’s three-run homer. Murphy flied out to center field to end the fifth inning.

Being able to play as a true freshman allowed Murphy to face 2006 Fallbrook High School graduate Adam Herter, a 2010 senior at Point Loma Nazarene. Herter took the mound for the Sea Lions to begin the bottom of the seventh inning.

“It was definitely a little weird,” Murphy said of facing Herter. “I wouldn’t have thought that I would have been facing him at the next level, but it was definitely cool to go up against him.”

Murphy was on Fallbrook’s freshman and junior varsity teams in 2006, so the two never both played on the same Warrior team, but they took a baseball class together. “I know him pretty well,” Murphy said.

In his only plate appearance against Herter, Murphy was hit by a pitch with one out in the seventh inning and no runners on base.

The matchup between the two Fallbrook High School graduates was officiated by home plate umpire Marco Rico, whose son is currently a Fallbrook High School senior. Murphy has known the Rico family since Murphy was a high school sophomore and Rico was a freshman.

While Murphy was familiar with Rico, he was not aware of the distinctions of base umpire Frank Alfano. Alfano was the CIF San Diego Section’s first team all-CIF shortstop in 1966 and 1967 and then played baseball for the University of Southern California, which won the 1970 College World Series championship game when Alfano’s single in the bottom of the 15th inning drove in the winning run.

After Herter hit Murphy, Virgil Chavira was safe on Point Loma shortstop Tyler Kuehl’s throwing error, which advanced Murphy to third. Murphy then scored his first collegiate run when Henley singled. The Cougars scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh, and Murphy ended the inning by striking out against Maurice Wilhelm on a 2-2 count.

Azusa Pacific won the first game by a 17-5 score. In the second game Murphy scored twice in the Cougars’ 8-4 win. During the seven-inning game Murphy was hit by a pitch in the second inning but did not score, reached base on a fielder’s choice in the fourth and scored on Chavira’s double, and walked in the sixth before scoring on Henley’s double.

“I felt good,” Murphy said of his first day playing collegiate baseball. “It worked out well.”

Murphy had a hit in four at-bats in the Cougars’ March 24 win at home against Concordia.

“He did great,” Svagdis said.

“Practicing in the fall definitely got me prepared for the games I played,” Murphy said. “It was good to get that experience for a little bit.”

Murphy was in sixth grade in May 2003, when in his third major league game Bay was hit by a pitch in the second inning and broke his right wrist. In his two games and two innings with the San Diego Padres, Bay had two hits in eight at-bats, which is what Murphy had during the 2010 season. Murphy was unaware that Bay broke his wrist two days after his major league debut.

In August 2003 Bay was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal which sent Brian Giles to the Padres. Bay was activated from the disabled list and played 27 games with the Pirates in 2003. Bay did not have enough at-bats in 2003 to deprive him of rookie status in 2004, when in 120 games he batted .282 and won the National League’s Rookie of the Year award.

Svagdis will seek a medical redshirt for Murphy, allowing him to have freshman status in 2011.

“We’re excited that the surgery went well,” Svagdis said. “We feel bad for Sam, but we’re excited about his recovery and getting him back next year.”

Murphy made enough of an impression on Svagdis that he continued traveling with Azusa Pacific after his injury. “It’s tough to watch, but I’ll do whatever I can to help my team win,” Murphy said.

“He’s a great kid, and we’re just real happy he’s here at Azusa,” Svagdis said.

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