After living life as a closer, 2015 MINK League All-Star Justin Murphy returned Saturday to the Sedalia Bombers.
In his first start since returning from Southeast Missouri State University, who were eliminated from the College World Series last week, Murphy went six scoreless, struck out seven and exited with a 3-0 lead. The effort helped snap a 2-game skid and guided the Bombers to a 4-2 victory over thte Joplin Outlaws at Liberty Stadium.
“It’s good to be a starter again,” Murphy said.
Murphy admitted he entered a closer’s mindset twice with runners on base.
In the second inning, Murphy hit Joplin designated hitter Mason Brown with a pitch to load the bases. Murphy escaped the jam with two straight strikeouts. Murphy again eluded damage in the fifth, putting two runners on with no outs. He struck out two and picked off Brown, who was breaking for third, to end the inning.
Save for the hit batter, Murphy allowed no base runners and struck out four with runners in scoring position.
“Definitely the mind switches back over,” Murphy said about pitching with runners on. “And it’s a good thing to have whenever you know can get these guys out. It’s just a good feeling whenever you can reach back for it and you can get them out.”
The Bombers, who took batting practice an hour early in an effort to re-focus, scored within the first two at-bats.
Robert Cummins, leading off, doubled off the left field fence on one hop. Quade Smith drove a Geroge Faue offering into a huge gap in right-center field, putting the Bombers up 1-0 two batters in.
Dalton Horstmeier followed with a singled through the middle to score Smith. He was picked off at first, but advanced to third on a wild throw.
In the second inning, John Privitera beat out a grounder to shortstop with two outs to extend the inning. Cummins earned his first of two RBIs with a drive to Joplin third baseman J.C. Santos, who was in an unbalanced backpedal as the ball entered the outfield. Privitera scored on the error.
Cummins said the extra batting practice was very important Saturday.
“For us it was a big deal,” Cummins said. “We needed to bear down and have more quality at bats. You saw today we got deeper in the counts, we saw a lot more pitches.”
Head coach Craig McAndrews said he was pleased with the lineup’s results.
“How you prepare is how you play,” McAndrews said. “A lot of guys can just show up, take (batting practice), and they’re fine. Older guys can. We can’t do that. We’re a young team, and we’ve never had a young team.
“We prepared differently, and you could tell.”
Blaine Fisher entered the game for Sedalia in the seventh. Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with before Fisher walked in a run. With two outs, a sliding stop by Privitera and flip to shortstop Devon Morrill at second preserved the 3-1 lead.
Sedalia got the seventh-inning run back in the bottom of the frame on a two-out, RBI Cummins single. Graham Ruopp pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game.
Cummins, 2-3 with two RBIs, said Saturday’s outing was not solely due to extra reps. The offense, he said, is better than its recent performances.
“We’ve kind of been struggling lately but, you know, we’re a better team, that’s how we feel,” Cummins said. “We went and took a long batting practice today. That helped us out. We found our swings. It just breaks down to having quality at-bats every time.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2