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Beyond the Scoreboard: Murphy High baseball chases state 1A title

The Murphy baseball program is 70-16 the past three seasons, including a 27-1 mark this year. Photo credit: Murphy)

The Murphy High baseball team has dominated Smoky Mountain Conference baseball the past three seasons, posting a 47-1 record that includes a current streak of 46 consecutive victories, to highlight an overall mark of 70-16.

But it was one of those 16 that has stuck with a senior-dominated team looking to make amends this weekend.

In Game 2 of the 1A state championship series last season, the Bulldogs took an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh, three outs away from forcing a decisive Game 3.

But a couple of errors, a couple of walks and hit batsmen preceded a walk-off bloop hit to cap a five-run rally that gave Whiteville the title.

“That just devastated us,” said Murphy coach Adam Clonts. “They had an experienced team used to playing in those games and we didn’t.”

Now the Bulldogs get another chance at bringing home a ring. The 27-1 squad that has outscored opponents 341-42 and has scored in double digits in 19 games brings some more prodigious offensive numbers into the state championship series this weekend against West Columbus.

Game 1 is 8 p.m. Friday at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Game 2 is 2 p.m. Saturday. If necessary, Game 3 would be 8 p.m. Saturday.

Murphy, which starts up to eight seniors most games, is hitting .417 as a team and its hitters get on base a rather amazing numbers of times, more that 50 percent (.525 on-base percentage).

Seven seniors are hitting between .367 and .536, led by an incredible season from Royce Peterson (.536, 8 home runs and 58 RBIs, an average of more than two a game).

The Emanuel (Ga.) College signee has scored 39 runs and 22 of his 52 hits are for extra bases.

Fellow senior Joey Curry, who will play at Western Carolina, is hitting .442 with 32 RBIs.

On the mound, senior Caleb Irwin (9-1) has struck out 100 in 53.2 innings. Irwin is going to Lawson State (Ala.) Junior College.

“We’ve been very fortunate to play well as a team all season, hitting and pitching,” said Clonts. “We’ve really focused and worked hard in practice and have been able to have a really productive offense.”

Clonts believes the sting of last year’s loss in the championship series has driven this team to avoid having that feeling again.

“We let one get away from us, and at the beginning of the year we talked about our goals and how we wanted to be playing the first weekend of June again,” he said.

“But that’s really the only time we mentioned it. We tried to win every game in the regular season and then make a run in the playoffs.”

There was a close call that almost prevented Murphy from a return trip to the title series.

Down two runs in the bottom of the seventh to Uhwarrie in the playoffs’ fourth round, the Bulldogs were down to their last strike when Irwin drilled a two-run hit to tie the game, and Murphy went on to win in the eighth inning.

“We have shown some resilience when we needed to,” said Clonts. “These kids have been great teammates and a great team to coach and be a part of, and it would be so great for these seniors to win it all.”

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