Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pitching in the Shadows of MLB All-Star

When Michael Murray, a sophomore exercise science major, walks into his home stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. a wall poster greets him reminding him of the shoes he is filling at Swanson Stadium. Over the past couple of years Florida Gulf Coast has become synonymous with #DunkCity, after the basketball team’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. In baseball, Chris Sale opened those eyes in 2010.

Sale, the 13th pick in the 2010 draft by the Chicago White Sox, was the National Player of the Year in 2010. He went 11-0 that year with a 2.01 ERA. In 103 innings pitched Sale struck out 146 while only surrendering 14 walks. Those numbers set a new standard at FGCU for starting pitchers to follow.

Sale has also found success in the Major Leagues with the Chicago White Sox. He won 17 games in 2012 and has made two All-Star appearances. Those are some big shoes to fill, but fast forward to 2014 and once again Head Coach Dave Tollett has a pitcher whose numbers look very similar to those of Sale.

Murray sits at 13-1 with a 1.85 ERA entering this week’s Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship. His command has been outstanding all season long only allowing 14 walks. Opponents are only hitting .229 against him and he has struck out 79 batters. Murray’s 13 wins, a FGCU school-record, lead the nation and have helped the Eagles to the regular season title. Every Friday night Murray takes the mound and fans come to the park to witness some #MurrayMagic.

The improvement this year for Murray has garnered him much more attention than his freshman season. When asked what the biggest difference is this year and Murray said “I’m more confident and last years’ experience has really helped. I really enjoy the intensity and energy that Friday night brings.” He is on the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List and on the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Watch List. After four Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week honors this season, which tied another one of Sale’s records set in 2010, Murray was voted the 2014 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, the fourth Eagle to win the award.

FGCU's Head Coach Dave Tollett said “Mike’s weight room work and commitment to improving his craft have made him the pitcher he is today. This conference produces some great pitching talent and to be awarded Pitcher of the Year is a great achievement.” Brady Anderson, FGCU’s number two pitcher, added “Mike works hard and competes every day. He learned a lot last year from Ricky Knapp, constantly picking his brain and it’s made him a better pitcher.”

So is there any extra pressure in pitching with Chris Sale’s wall poster hanging on Swanson Stadium you might ask. Murray doesn’t think so “I’ve been pitching since I was eight years old. I don’t put extra pressure on myself, just go out execute pitches and have fun. The guys who came before me taught me a lot and have made me stay humble and continue to work hard.”  

At 13-1 it’s fair to say that Murray has been having a lot of fun.

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