Mac Baseball: ace starting pitcher James Murrey leading the way

By Patrick Murphy

Spring break: A time to kick back & relax. Unless you’re the ace pitcher of the Macalester baseball team. Rather than sipping piña coladas on a beach in Mexico, James Murrey ’10 started his Spring Break off with one of the greatest athletic performances in Macalester history. Early Friday morning, the Mac baseball team flew to Phoenix for their annual Spring Break trip, where they played ten games in eight days. On Saturday, the Scots faced off against their toughest opponent of the trip, nationally ranked Johns Hopkins. After an 18-3 beat down of Mac last year, the Hopkins squad had reason for optimism on Saturday with their top pitcher facing off against the Scots. Unfortunately for Hopkins, few pitchers matchup well with Murrey, Mac’s ace starting pitcher.

Facing off against the vaunted Johns Hopkins lineup, Murrey didn’t blink, shutting the Blue Jays out through eight innings. Murrey mowed through the opposing lineup, hitter-after-hitter, on his way to an 18-strikeout performance- matching a 73-year-old school record. Mac went on to win the game 1-0 in extra innings, handing Hopkins its first loss of the season.

“Outside of a few Little League games, it was definitely my best personal performance,” Murrey said. “It’s funny though, because my arm didn’t feel that great, but it got stronger as the game went on.”

“He has had some dominate performances in the past,” said Coach Matthew Parrington, “but none against a team of that caliber.”

Apparently more than the casual fan took notice because Murrey was named National D-III Pitcher of the week.

Becoming one of the top D-III pitchers in the country doesn’t happen overnight. Murrey got an early start, playing Tee Ball as a four-year-old growing up in LaGrange, Illinois. During his years playing Little League, Murrey was a first basemen, only becoming a fulltime pitcher as a junior in high school. It was with pitching that Murrey found his calling.

“I like being in control of the game, which is reflective of my personality,” Murrey said. “I love the one-on-one competition between pitcher and hitter. It’s all on you. It definitely sates my competitive edge.”

“After scouting him, I knew that he could be a very good pitcher at the college level,” Parrington said. “We recruited James hard. He was our first recruit to visit campus that year.”

Parrington’s premonition of Murrey’s potential for success on the college level couldn’t have been more accurate. As a freshman, Murrey was the ace of the pitching staff, a seldom occurrence at the college level. His ERA has gone down in each season: 2.77 (’07), 2.29 (’08), 1.95 (’09), 1.38 (’10).

Murrey is an overpowering strikeout pitcher as the 18-strikeout performance against Johns Hopkins clearly showed. While the majority of college pitchers average well under nine strikeouts per nine innings (K’s/9), Murrey has averaged more strikeouts than innings pitched in each season at Mac, despite also leading the team in innings pitched each season. This season, he has the third highest K’s/9 of every D-III pitcher with a gaudy 14.19 K’s/9.

“My primary focus is making good pitches, but once I get two strikes on hitters I like to be aggressive and go for the strikeout,” Murrey said. “Getting hitters out early in the count is always emphasized, but I think the effect that strikeouts can have on a game gets downplayed. When you’re mowing teams down, you can feel their energy go down and your team feeds off of that.”

Not one to glorify himself, Murrey pointed out that his coaches and teammates have been instrumental in his development and success.

“Coaches Parrington and Coolong have really helped me with the mental aspect of pitching,” Murrey said. “They’ve taught me not to worry about things that I can’t control and to keep my head within the circle of the pitching mound.”

Catchers control much of the pitching game, and Murrey was sure to credit the team’s pair of star sophomore catchers, Robert ‘Bert’ Williams ’12 (.431, 19 RBI, 2 HR) and Garrett Salzman ’12 (.314, 9 RBI, 2 HR).

“Being on the same page with your catchers is absolutely essential if you want to control the flow of the game,” Murrey said. “Those guys do a great job managing the game.”

Williams and Salzman had equally high praise for their staff ace. Both of the catchers played in extremely competitive Los Angeles high school leagues and have had exposure to D-I talent.

“Very rarely do you see a guy who can regularly dominate with all four pitches even at the D-I level,” Williams said. “James is an exception.”

“He’s a fierce competitor,” Salzman said. “When James is on the mound, we know that we just need to score one or two runs, and he’s capable of doing the rest.”

While Murrey is all business on the mound, he’s fun-loving off the field.

“James is the biggest, little kid I know,” said fellow senior captain Nate Wilson-Traisman ’10. “He’s the biggest gamer I have ever met.”

While Murrey hung up his axe ‘bryn troll, the bone arbiter’ two months ago, he had long been renowned as a dominant DPS Death Knight among the hordes of diehards in the cult game World of Warcraft (WoW).

“Make no mistake, peasant. He made more than a few blood elves regret that they were ever born,” said fellow pitcher Elliot Yodh ’11. “Azeroth wasn’t safe back in the day when James was still in the game.”

Something that started when he was bored a few summers ago turned into a passion quickly. Along with numerous end-game raiding achievements, he cited being recruited by the Premonition Guild, formerly the top-ranked guild in the world, to raid as his proudest WoW achievement.

“There are many similarities between WoW and baseball,” Murrey said. “Player-vs-Player in WoW is just as competitive as ‘real’ sports are and just as time-consuming on many occasions.”

While Murrey did the nearly impossible by quitting WoW, he’s still dominating opposing hitters at an alarming rate, or to translate it into WoW speak, “pwning noobs.