Murphy enjoying fall ball in sunny San Diego |

Murphy enjoying fall ball in sunny San Diego

Prescott Courier/Jo. L. KeenerTruckee High grad J.R. Murphy releases a pitch this past March for the Yavapai College Roughriders. Murphy is now playing at San Diego State University for head coach Tony Gwynn.

J.R. Murphy is soaking up the sunny days at San Diego State University.

“I love the school. It’s totally awesome,” the 6-foot-3 right-hander said of the university, which lured him onto its baseball team with a scholarship that covers about 75 percent of his tuition. “It’s the perfect place.”

Murphy ” a 2004 Truckee High grad and Nevada single-season strikeout record holder (139) ” recently finished competing in fall ball for the Aztecs, coached by former Major League player and future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.

During the three weeks of fall ball, Murphy said each pitcher was given four, two-inning appearances in intrasquad scrimmages, for a total of only eight innings.

Having pitched all summer for the LaCrosse (Wis.) Loggers of the Northwest League ” a collegiate Class A short-season league ” Murphy said he took a couple weeks off once he arrived in San Diego, and thus his arm wasn’t in top shape.

“I did OK, but it definitely wasn’t what I expected,” he said of his performance, describing it as “nothing too special.”

In addition to his velocity being slightly down, as he was throwing in the mid 80s instead of closer to 90, like usual, Murphy said the use of aluminum bats made an impact on how many hits he allowed.

“It’s a little more of a difference than I expected with the metal bats,” he said. “It makes the difference between a jam job and a base hit.”

Coming off two dominating seasons for Yavapai College (Ariz.) ” a highly competitive junior college that plays in a wood bat league ” Murphy enjoys the higher level of competition NCAA Division I baseball has to offer. Even if that competition comes from within the program.

“We’ve got a really good group of guys, so it’s gonna be a battle for playing time,” Murphy said. “But that’s what makes it fun.”

Although he doesn’t work with the pitchers, Murphy said it’s also fun playing for Gwynn.

“He’s awesome,” Murphy said. “I don’t get a lot of coaching from him, but I see him every day and he’ll say ‘hi’ to you. He knows everybody’s name.”

Murphy, whose high school jersey number is retired in the outfield of the Truckee High baseball field, played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Yavapai College.

In 49 and one-third innings over seven starts during his freshman year, Murphy compiled a 6-0 record with one save and two complete games. His earned run average, at 1.83, ranked 12th in the nation. Murphy allowed 32 hits and 10 earned runs while striking out 44 and walking 18. Opposing batters only managed a .186 average against him.

Through May 22 of the 2006 season, Murphy was 10-1 overall with one save and an ERA of 1.71. In 94 1/3 innings, he allowed 72 hits and 18 earned runs while striking out 104 and walking only 15. Murphy’s numbers earned him a spot on the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) all-conference team and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All American recognition.

To top off Murphy’s experience at Yavapai, the Roughriders played their way into the championship game of the NJCAA World Series, where they lost 7-6 to Walters State College (Tenn.).

Murphy was also selected by the Texas Rangers in the 38th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. But he chose to stay in school.

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