Murphy's Law: Historic Starting Pitcher Debut Leads ASU Past Cal
BERKELEY – Kai Murphy was absolutely dominant in his first career collegiate start as Sun Devil Baseball rolled past California for a series victory on the road, 7-2, on Sunday in Berkeley.
Murphy entered today's game with just 6.0 innings pitched over 6 appearances in his collegiate career at Oregon State last year and ASU this season. You would never have been able to tell on Sunday as he went 7.0 innings with just one hit allowed and no runs, striking out three and walking one to earn the first decision of his career – a victory.
With it, ASU moved to 27-15 on the year and 12-9 in the conference and claimed a key Pac-12 series victory on the road and moved to 9-3 in weekend series this season. The three series losses coming in series splits against the three ranked teams in the conference (Arizona, Stanford and Oregon).
Nate Baez recorded his first home run of the year and scored three runs in his first start of the season at catcher. Drew Swift had a big two-run blast in the eighth to give ASU plenty of breathing room and Sean McLain had his second multi-RBI game of the series to lead a balanced attack on offense.
Eight Sun Devils combined for 11 hits, the 13th time in the last 18 games ASU has reached double digits in the hit category. Swift, Hunter Jump and Ethan Long record multi-hit efforts.
Will Levine got a key pair of double plays in the 8th and 9th innings to staunch Cal's attempt at a rally and close things out.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Sun Devils leaned on the pace and moxie of Murphy on the mound and continued to put pressure on the Cal offense. A two-run two-out rally in the second opened the scoring as Nate Baez drilled his first homer of the year and Hunter Jump recorded an RBI single a couple batters later. ASU tacked on two more in the fourth on McLain's two-RBI double and Drew Swift dropped the hammer in the eighth with a two-run shot off the building in left to effectively give ASU all the room it needed, up 6-0.
STAR OF THE GAME
Kai Murphy was electric in his first career start, arguably one of the greatest starting debuts in Sun Devil history by the numbers. Murphy stranded a one-out walk in the first and then leaving a two-out triple on third in the third. That triple was the lone hit he allowed in the game, becoming one of just eight Sun Devils since 1998 to start a game and go at least 7.0 innings with one or fewer hits allowed.
Otherwise, he was untouchable. Murphy retired the final 13 batters he faced in his starting debut and he finished the day with just 71 pitches.
The triple was the last bit of hard contact Murphy dealt with on the day, inducing soft grounders and lazy fly balls the rest of the way before his final out of the day – a lineout to McLain at second.
- Kai Murphy is the first Sun Devil pitcher to hold an opponent to just one hit in at least 7.0 innings since Ryan Hingst's no-hitter in 2016.
- Only 8 ASU pitchers have gone 7.0 innings with one or fewer hits since AT LEAST 1998. None did so in their first career start like Murphy.
- Between the final 5.0 innings of Justin Fall's performance on Saturday and Murphy's 7.0 innings on Sunday, the duo combined to hold Cal to just one hit and two walks with no runs over 12 innings.
- With two today, ASU has 46 double plays this season and 40 in the last 28 games. It had just six in the first 14 games of the season. ASU entered the weekend fifth nationally in double plays turned.
- ASU added three doubles today and has 46 in the last 16 games (2.9 per game). It averaged just 1.8 doubles per game in the first 26 games of the year.
- ASU improved to 9-3 in weekend series victories on the year, with the only three weekend series losses (all 2 games to 1) came to the three ranked opponents it has played this season (Oregon, Stanford, Arizona).
- ASU had 11 hits on the day and has now posted double-digit hits in 13 of its last 18 games. The Devils had just 10 double-digit hitting games in the first 24 games of the year.
- ASU has held opponents to five runs or less in 41 of 59 games (69.5 percent) since Jason Kelly took over as pitching coach. For perspective ASU gave up six or more runs in 25 of its 57 games in the 2019 season (43.9 percent) and 28 of its 55 games in 2018 (51 percent).
The Sun Devils will bus over to Reno for the final non-conference game of the year against Nevada on Tuesday at 12 p.m. AZT.
ASU got hits from Hunter Jump and Ethan Long but couldn't do anything. In his first career start, Murphy stranded a one-out walk.
Deuces were wild in the second. The Devils scored two runs with two outs with Nate Baez launching a solo shot for his first homer of the year to get ASU on the board. A walk from Joe Lampe followed by back-to-back singles from Swift and Jump made it 2-0. Murphy retired his side in order with a strikeout and a nice pair of infield defensive plays.
ASU stranded a leadoff double from Ethan Long, who was inches away from his 13th homer of the season. Cal's first hit on the day came on a two-out triple but Murphy calmly retired the final batter of the frame to keep it 2-0.
ASU doubled its lead thank to some solid manufacturing. A Nate Baez leadoff walk was followed by a Joe Lampe bunt single. A sac bunt moved both to scoring position and Hunter Jump drew a walk to load the bases. Sean McLain laced one the opposite way for a two-RBI double to make it 4-0. Murphy continued to cruise with a five-pitch inning with pair of groundouts to first a and popup to second.
Kai Murphy singled but that was the extent of the action. Murphy then came back out for another 1-2-3 frame on the mound.
ASU went down in order, but Murphy did the same to the Bear half of the inning.
A repeat of the sixth inning.
Drew Swift gave ASU some breathing room as we welcomed Cal reliever Ian Villers to the game with a monstrous two-run blast to left to make it 6-0. Cal broke up the shutout in the bottom of the eighth with a run scoring but at the cost of a double play, making it 6-1.
A leadoff walk from Ethan Long and a double put runners on second and third. Kade Higgins pinch ran for Long and scored on a nice read on a ball in the dirt to put the lead back at 6. Cal loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half but Will Levine did what he's done best all year, getting another double play and a strikeout to escape the jam and only allow a run.