Murphy won't smile after ASU's close encounter - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Murphy won't smile after ASU's close encounter

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Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2003 12:28 am | Updated: 1:11 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

It was a little after 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Arizona State had just closed out a 15-0 win over New Mexico State to emerge as the lone unbeaten team in the Tempe Regional. In two games, the Sun Devils had outscored their opponents, 29-2, out-hit their opponents, 27-14, and had given up just one earned run and committed just one error.

The team that stands in ASU's path to a Super Regional was forced to win three games in a 24-hour period while ASU stands comfortably on the sidelines with two front-line pitchers — Ben Thurmond and Erik Averill — yet to throw a pitch in this tournament.

You would naturally assume that Arizona State coach Pat Murphy would be all smiles as he strolled into the bowels of Tempe Diablo Stadium for his postgame news conference.

You would be wrong, of course. Murphy plodded wearily into the interview room, ran a hand through his short-cropped hair and grimaced.

"I thought we played not to lose for the first eight innings,'' he said wearily. "We had some horrible at-bats. We are not going to the next round if we play not to lose. We have to play to win.''

That Murphy did not bound into the room in a back-slapping fit belies one of the most best-kept secrets in sports: Baseball coaches are insane.

In the neurotic world of baseball, there is always a dark cloud in front of every silver lining. Not only is the glass half empty, it's probably leaking. In the world of a coach, baseball and misery are Siamese twins, inseparable.

Murphy, being a veteran coach, is addicted to the misery that accompanies defeat and victory. Admittedly, ASU's 15-0 victory over the third-seeded Aggies was a bit of an aberration. Going into the seventh inning, ASU clung to a 1-0 lead, the outcome hanging in the balance.

But the Sun Devils got the timely hit that eluded them in the seventh, with center fielder Andre Ethier driving in a pair of runs with a single to right. In the ninth, with the Aggies reluctant to use relievers they might need later, the Sun Devils turned the game into a rout, scoring 12 runs while batting around twice. What had been a tense affair became a laugher.

Only Murphy wasn't laughing.

The ninth inning wasn't on his mind by the time he faced the media. He was, instead, agonizing over the first eight.

Murphy moaned over his team's lack of patience against NMSU starter Dustin Cameron. The Sun Devils collected six walks off Cameron, who also hit a pair of batters. What ASU failed to do was get the timely hit. The Sun Devils managed just two hits through the first six innings.

You can understand Murphy's frustration.

But you can also see why a pitcher like Cameron could give a team like ASU fits. Even with his 5.12 ERA, Cameron was a good choice to run out there against the Devils. For six innings, Cameron turned the Sun Devils’ aggressiveness against them. He rarely threw his fastball in the strike zone, which often left ASU hitters lunging at his off-speed pitches. Hard-hitting teams such as ASU love fastballs in the zone. But Cameron wasn't putting his fastball where they could hack at it.

The Sun Devils persisted, though, and eventually got Cameron out of the game.

Ultimately, everything worked out just fine.

ASU didn't play its best game, yet still won by two touchdowns. You would have to say everything worked out just fine.

Unless you're a baseball coach, of course.

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