Truckee ousts Fernley; Murphy gets NIAA strikeout record
J.R. Murphy’s 139th strikeout – the new Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association single-season record – was more precious to his Truckee Wolverines than the previous 138 combined.
On a 2-2 pitch, Murphy’s strikeout of Fernley’s Casey Bisard on Saturday sent Truckee’s baseball program to its first state championship tournament since 1994, the year before moving from 2A to 3A competition.
It also sent himself, his teammates and Truckee fans into a celebratory frenzy after Bisard failed to check his swing on a low and outside Murphy slider, putting the finishing touches on a 9-8 comeback win against the Vaqueros in the rubber game of a best-of-three 3A Northern League Tournament series on Truckee’s home field.
“(Murphy) was so amped,” fourth-year Truckee head coach Jason Estabrook spoke excitedly after the game. “His slider was biting so hard, and Bisard was sitting on a fastball. We were never going to give him anything on the inside.”
Bisard roped a grand slam and a three-run homer in a single inning off Truckee starter Jimmy Williams (5-4) and finished with eight RBIs in Fernley’s 17-5 game-two win earlier in the day. Against Murphy he represented the tying run with two outs in the top of the seventh of game three.
With his ace pitcher on the mound, Estabrook said he never considered issuing an intentional walk to Bisard, who was 1 for 3 against Murphy in Truckee’s 8-3 game-one win on Friday and Murphy’s 137th strikeout victim (breaking Cimarron-Memorial pitcher Mike Esposito’s 1999 record of 136).
Murphy (11-3), who pitched a six-hitter in game one, came back a day later to pitch four scoreless innings and win game three. Ironically, Murphy’s only strikeout on Saturday was the one that sent Bisard and his teammates home with a devastating one-run loss. In the series, Murphy struck out 10 Vaqueros in 11 innings.
His pitching was masterful, but the senior was also deadly with the bat when it counted. He went 3 for 4 – including a first-inning three-run homer – and a game-tying RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth of game three. Murphy was 5 for 10 in the series with seven RBIs, and his three-run shot that cleared the left-center field fence was his team-leading seventh homer.
Murphy’s pitching and hitting heroics carried Truckee, but the entire Truckee offense and some timely defense played a role in the comeback that saw the Wolverines score six runs in their final three at-bats.
With the Wolverines trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the fourth, catcher Kyle Adams led off the inning with his first home run of the season, a line drive shot that just stayed fair down the left field line. With two outs and Fernley starting pitcher Craig Jameson still in, Murphy connected for an RBI double into the right-center field gap to pull Truckee within three, scoring Nik Smith, who had reached on a fielder’s choice.
With Murphy running, Shane Wright hit a slow grounder that found its way into center field just beyond the reach of second baseman Cody Rieger to make it 8-6. Tim Reeder relieved Jameson and temporarily plugged the Truckee assault getting Buck Claesson to fly out to right field.
After another scoreless inning by Murphy, Jimmy Williams laced a two-out RBI double down the left field line to score Jeff Hansen, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, to cut Fernley’s lead to one.
Murphy faced the biggest threat in the top of the sixth when Fernley set up a first and third situation with one out after a Tony Selden single, but shortstop Daniel Galvin made up for an error earlier in the inning by starting an inning-ending double play off the bat of Jameson to keep Truckee within one.
After Smith led off the top of the sixth with a base hit, Murphy slapped a grounder that nicked the third base bag and scooted down the left field line, providing plenty of time to score Smith from first and tie the game at eight. Following Murphy’s sixth triple of the year, Wright and Claesson stranded Murphy at third.
With two outs, senior Chris Tennant provided the feel-good story of the day. Tennant started game two but did not hit. Estabrook let him swing in game three and Tennant delivered a bloop single into left-center field, scoring Murphy and putting Truckee ahead to stay.
“I hit it and I was just praying for it to come down,” said Tennant, who was ecstatic after the game. “I was so pumped. I didn’t know what to do with myself; I just tried to stay on (first) base.”
Tennant came into the series hitting .200 and has struggled at the plate after starting the season fairly strong, he said. But Tennant said he felt positive before his game three start.
“The whole day I just felt like I was going to be able to do something good.”
For Truckee baseball, Tennant’s game-winner wasn’t just good, it was historic – the hit that ended a decade’s worth of frustration. It was 10 years ago that Truckee last made the trip to the state tournament and won the Class 2A championship.
A preview of the 2004 NIAA Class 3A State Baseball Championship will appear in Friday’s Sierra Sun sports section. Truckee plays Boulder City at North Valleys High School in Reno on Friday, May 21, at 11:30 a.m.
Results: Fernley at Truckee
3A Northern League tourney
Game one: Truckee 8, Fernley 3
WP: Murphy (CG, 2 ER, 6 H, 9 K)
N. Smith; 4-5, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBIs
Game two: Fernley 17, Truckee 5
WP: Selden (CG, 5 R, 9 H)
LP: Williams (3 IP, 13 R)
C. Bisard, 4-5, 2 HR, 2B, 8 RBIs
Game three: Truckee 9, Fernley 8
WP: Murphy (4 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 K)
LP: Reeder (2 1/3 IP, 3 R)
Murphy; 3-4, HR, 3B, 2B, 5 RBIs
Truckee wins series 2-1, advances to state championship
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.