Aston Valley 6, Upper Darby 0

Murphy overcomes heat to burn Upper Darby

By Matt Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @DTMattSmith on Twitter

ASTON >> Chris Murphy’s biggest challenge Tuesday wasn’t the guy standing in the batter’s box. The Aston Valley ace had no trouble firing his untouchable fastball by Upper Darby all night long.

Murphy’s toughest battle was the heat and humidity. It was disgustingly hot at Jim Buggy Field. 

In the first inning, the 6-foot-4 righthander was sweating profusely, trying to keep his rhythm on the mound. Murphy had to take a few deep breaths between every pitch just to make sure his heart rate wasn’t working on overdrive.

Luckily, the former Houston Astros draftee was dealing and getting quick outs. And his offense gave him more than enough time to chill out in the dugout in the second inning, as the Knights batted around and scored six runs. Murphy did the rest, twirling a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts to lead Aston Valley to a 6-0 victory in Game 3 of the Delco League championship.

Game 4 of the best-of-five series, which Aston Valley leads, 2-1, is set for Wednesday evening back at Buggy Field in Aston. First pitch is 5:45.

“Breathing, breathing, breathing. You’ve just got to keep an air flow when it’s this hot out,” Murphy said. “When it’s hot, you can’t speed up or you’re going to burn out. You’ve got to maintain your tempo — I mean, I’m still breathing hard, it’s like I ran three miles. You just got to breathe, set your tempo and make your pitches.”

Murphy allowed a leadoff single to Christian Strickland in the second inning. Upper Darby got its second hit with two outs in the seventh, a single down the right-field line off the bat of Steve Theisen. That was all the offense for the Blue Sox. Murphy walked zero and didn’t allow the Blue Sox to reach second base.

Murphy faced the minimum until Theisen’s single in the seventh. He notched a pair of strikeouts in each of the first four innings.

It was Murphy’s third consecutive shutout of the Delco League playoffs. He stymied Chester in the quarterfinal round, then dominated two-time defending champion Wayne in the semifinals.

“He’s the best pitcher in the league for a reason,” Aston Valley catcher Matt Domian said. “Whenever he goes out there, he gives us a shot every time. I mean, he’s one of the best pitchers in PSAC  history, set all kinds of records at Millersville. He’s unbelievable. Like I said, every time he’s on the bump, he’s going to give us a shot.”

The Knights played small ball and took advantage of some shoddy defense by Upper Darby in the second inning. Brett Lesher started things off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Stretch. Kody Clausius reached on an error by shortstop Matt Query to put runners at the corners and one out, then Roman Tozzi legged out a chopper to first base, driving home Lesher from third base. Nine-hole hitter Dante DiSabatino sacrificed himself, but Strickland airmailed the throw to first. enabling two more runs to score. Later, with two outs, Quentin Ivy ripped a two-run single to give the Knights a 5-0 advantage. Player/coach Jarad Carney hustled all the way home from first base on the play. Ivy scored the game’s final run on a hit by Aidan Duda.

It might as well have been a 16-0 advantage with Murphy on the hill.

“I thought they would do something different, try and change their approach a little bit ... to make him work more,” Domian said. “But he just continued to pound the zone. He located three pitches really well, which is hard to do. He’s fun to catch.”

Murphy figured that Upper Darby would drop down a couple of bunts to get him moving off the mound. But that wasn’t the case. Instead the Blue Sox just continued to swing and miss.

“I was fortunate enough to get through the order once in three innings. When the fourth inning comes around, they’ve got to change their approach, it’s up to them,” Murphy said. “That’s just the game, they’ve got to get desperate. It’s my goal to attack the hitters and get through them as quickly as possible because then it just puts them in the corner with their approach. I really thought they would start bunting, but they didn’t. I thought, once we put those bunts down in the second inning, maybe they’d start doing that too and make me run all over the place.”

Eight of Aston Valley’s starting nine reached base at least once against Upper Darby pitching. The Blue Sox started Greyson Walker, who allowed five runs (one earned) on four hits in two innings of work. Sean Donohue entered in the third and threw two hitless innings with three punchouts. The ageless Izzy Menna also gave Upper Darby two shutout innings of relief.

The Knights hope to close out the series Wednesday. Righthander Kyle Maxwell is scheduled to get the ball.

“We trust what’s got us here,” Murphy said. “Nothing changes, we just stick to our guns. Maxwell is gonna to go out, throw the game he knows how to throw, and the lineup is going to shut the  door on the series and the championship. I’m looking forward to it.”