North Tahoe split means Truckee will host Fernley; Murphy Ks 14
After a 17-6 thrashing of visiting rival Truckee in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, North Tahoe knew it would have to muscle up and beat Wolverines ace J.R Murphy in game two.
North Tahoe needed a sweep in order to earn homefield advantage in the Zone playoffs and return to its new ballpark, tucked inside North Tahoe Regional Park, the following weekend.
Murphy (9-3) had other ideas, striking out 14 Lakers hitters and yielding zero earned runs in a game two, 6-1, victory. Murphy spoiled the Lakers plans and helped the Wolverines lock down second place, setting up a best-of-three playoffs series at home versus Fernley starting on Friday.
North Tahoe will travel to Dayton and Lowry to Manogue to round out the Northern 3A baseball playoff picture. The three series winners advance to state.
Even though he was battling a nagging cold, Murphy allowed only three hits and retired the side in order in five out of seven innings.
“You play better when you’re sick,” said Murphy, who looked sluggish at the plate, striking out in his first three at-bats. But he didn’t let it affect him on the mound. “I’m going to college as a pitcher,” he said, “and that’s mainly what I concentrate on. If I do hit good (it’s an added bonus).”
The tall right-hander hits No. 4 in the Truckee lineup and will attend Arizona’s Yavapai Junior College starting in the fall. He hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 6-1 and came into the games leading his team in triples, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage.
On the mound, Murphy finishes the regular season with a 1.32 ERA, striking out 129 hitters in 74 innings pitched.
Jimmy Williams (5-3) took the ball for Truckee in game one and didn’t reach the third inning. The Lakers lineup jumped all over Williams, touching him for 10 runs in the first two frames on their way to an 11-run victory.
“Jimmy didn’t have it today,” said Truckee head coach Jason Estabrook, “and they let him know it. He was getting hit Ð leaving the ball over the plate and just making the ball too perfect.”
According to Estabrook, Williams had taken a ground ball off his finger in Friday’s practice, possible damaging a nerve. But Estabrook made no excuses for Williams and praised Lakers hitters.
“North Tahoe’s an outstanding hitting team,” said the fourth-year coach, who will lead Truckee to its first playoff appearance since 2001. “Everything they hit, they hit on the screws.”
Jesse Brown, the Lakers losing pitcher in game two, slammed a three-run homer to left center off Williams in the first inning of game one, and North Tahoe added seven more runs in the second, wiping out Truckee’s five-run second highlighted by Kyle Adams’ two-run triple.
North Tahoe pitcher Robert Lane threw a complete game victory in game one, with the game ending by way of the 10-run mercy rule after five.
But Williams would not be outdone on Saturday, instead inflicting damage on the Lakers with his bat in game two. In the top of the first, Williams lined a two-run double to the wall in left field after Murphy had struck out with the bases loaded and no outs. In a game of trade-offs, Williams picked up Murphy and provided a much-needed spark to his teammates with his eighth double that looked to be a grand slam off the bat.
“To tell you the truth, I thought it was out (of the park), but I just kept running,” the junior said. “It was what we needed to start out the game after that loss.”
Truckee spread out its offense over the next four innings. A Daniel Galvin sacrifice fly, an RBI double by Nik Smith and a Buck Claesson RBI single made it 5-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, when North Tahoe’s Stephen Derby scored on an errant throw into left field by Truckee catcher Adams after a passed ball.
North Tahoe’s unearned run was not enough to shake Murphy, whose 129 strikeouts are seven short of the listed NIAA state record.
The worry for Truckee going into Zones becomes pitching, or who to pitch after Murphy. The rest of the Truckee staff is a formidable 12-8, but no other pitcher has an ERA under three.
Williams is not concerned: “Today was pretty much a fluke because I have a lot more faith in our pitchers. That first game we just weren’t pitching to our potential. I think we got all the pitching we need to win a state championship” (something Truckee hasn’t done since 1994).
With pitching around Murphy still a weakness, Truckee will most likely have to eke out wins in the playoffs behind its “chip-away” philosophy on offense, at least when Murphy is not on the hill.
“We don’t live and die by the long ball,” said Estabrook, looking into the Fernley series. “We like to generate runs and try to put (a run) up an inning.”
Truckee finishes the regular season 21-11 overall. The best-of-three Zones playoff series starts in Truckee on Friday, May 14, at 3:30 p.m. and continues Saturday. Truckee split a doubleheader versus Fernley in Truckee on April 10.
Northern 3A final standings
Manogue 15 1
Truckee 11 5
Dayton 11 5
North Tahoe 10 6
Fernley 9 7
Lowry 9 7
Spring Creek 3 13
Yerington 2 14
Rite of Passage 2 14
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