While Nathan Minnich has deservedly gained most of the attention shown Shepherd’s baseball team this winter/spring, the Rams have seen another player have an all-conference type season.
Utility player Chad Murphy has played a number of positions — all well– and has at times supplanted even Minnich with his consistent offense.
Murphy is a junior. And what his coach, Wayne Riser, likes most about him is that he is the son of a high school baseball coach. Just before Shepherd’s season opened in February, Riser said of Murphy, “I like him. He is an intelligent baseball player. He can play a number of different positions and he will give us stability.”
This is Murphy’s first season with Riser at Shepherd. He came to the Rams from North Olmstead, Ohio and Catonsville (Md.) Community College and was going to solve Shepherd’s catching problems.
In the first few weeks of the season, Murphy was Shepherd’s catcher. But when several infielders began having fielding problems, Murphy was moved to second base. He has been a quiet second baseman — quiet because nobody notices him and his near-flawless fielding.
While being a calming force on the right side of the Shepherd infield, Murphy has made his noise as a hitter.
Riser could have found himself wondering just who might bat behind Minnich to keep the opposition from walking the .500-hitting first baseman at nearly every turn.
Riser put Murphy behind Minnich in the season’s first game and he has never moved him. There was no reason to alter Murphy’s place in the Shepherd batting order.
Murphy doesn’t look like the prototypic second baseman. He has the body of a catcher. But at a generous listing of 5-feet-10 and 190 pounds, he has covered ground — especially to his left — and made all the plays required of a quality defensive player. His range has also been valuable on pop flies and Texas League popups near the right field foul line and into shallow centerfield.
At the plate, Murphy has drawn 41 walks and has an on-base percentage of .515 going into next week’s WVIAC tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
Murphy started all 46 of Shepherd’s regular season games.
He batted .372, second on the team to Minnich’s .500 average. His offensive statistics showed him with 54 hits in 145 official at-bats. Murphy scored 39 runs and led the Rams with his 14 doubles. One of his three homers came on the final weekend of the year when Shepherd clinched its postseason berth in the tournament with two wins in three games against Pitt-Johnstown.
Among the eight Shepherd regulars, he has struck out the fewest times, and only Minnich has more walks (50).
Occasionally, Murphy has caught a game in a conference doubleheader. But he always bats cleanup and always brings his quiet and fundamentally sound and consistent game with him.
At Shepherd this spring/winter, “Murphy’s Law” has meant a consistent player whose contributions have meant Riser can worry about other things and other players because his first-year coach’s son has been his second-most valuable player.
“Murphy’s Law” translates into a high-average hitter, a hitter with one of the WVIAC’s best on-base percentages, a skilled defender whose talents have allowed Riser to revise his inner defense more than once or twice, and a consistent run producer.
Riser just pencils in the names of Minnich and Murphy in the three and four spots in his batting order . . . and starts to tinker with the bottom of his lineup card.
Chad Murphy is a junior.
Wayne Riser won’t have Minnich next season . . . but he will still have the next best thing in Chad Murphy.
At Shepherd, “Murphy’s Law” has been spelled out in clear won-loss terms as the Rams have recovered from a sub-par 2011 season and won 30 of their 46 games that were decided on the field.
The coach’s son has made life easier for the long-time Shepherd coach.