ATM baseball coach surprised by team’s start

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:45am

First-year Archbishop Thomas Murphy baseball coach Ed Gay had some modest goals for his team at the start of the season.

Gay figured it was going to take some time for the Wildcats to get used to a new coach. Coupled with a roster that had only three seniors and the fact that the team doesn’t have its own field (the team plays its home game at Maltby Community Park), Gay tempered his outlook for the season.

“If we were in the upper half of the league, then it would be a successful year,” he said.

It’s safe to say Archbishop Murphy has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

With spring break upon them, the Wildcats are sitting atop the Northwest A League standing with a 6-1 mark (10-1 overall), just ahead of second-place Friday Harbor, which has a 6-2 league record.

A relatively young team is playing like a veteran squad, according to Gay.

“They’ve played like they’ve played together for a long time,” he said. “I thought with us being young that it would take them longer to know how I wanted them to play.”

Two of the keys to the Wildcats’ success are pitchers Kevin Smith and Chris Mitchell. Smith (3-0), who is sporting a team-leading 1.22 ERA, played mostly on the junior varsity team last season and has made a smooth transition to varsity.

“Kevin is an offspeed pitcher. He has an excellent change up,” Gay said. “He throws a lot of strikes.”

In Smith’s three starts, he has struck out 20 and walked only seven.

Mitchell has a 2.43 ERA and is more of a power pitcher.

“Chris throws really hard,” Gay said. “He throws his changeup as his second pitch.”

Gay appreciates having two pitchers with contrasting styles.

Early in the season, the Wildcats had to rely on its pitching and defense to win games but lately the offense has improving.

Through 11 games, the team has a .310 batting average.

“It’s slowly been rising. We started out depending on our pitching and our defense and now our offense is starting to come through,” Gay said.

Offensive standouts included Jeff Arkell, Nick Karthas, Joe Markovich and Mitchell.

“Those guys have really come through for us all year,” Gay said.

Arkell and Mitchell have eight and seven doubles, respectively. Karthas has hit two home runs.

Archbishop Murphy suffered its first league loss of the season last week, a 15-7 loss to LaConner on April 15. Gay was interested in seeing how his team responded to the adversity.

The next day the Wildcats pounded Bellevue Christian 19-7.

“Their confidence is up … they know they’re not overconfident,” Gay said. “They know they can get beat.”

In the loss to LaConner, the Archbishop Murphy defense has a most uncharacteristic effort. Eleven of the 15 runs were unearned.

“Hopefully that was our one letdown. Our defense has been really solid,” Gay said. “We’ve made the plays. We thought if our pitchers gave us a chance, we’d have a chance. We have some pretty good kids playing defense.

“If we had a letdown every 11 games, we’re fine.”

Talk to us