Moments prior to the second game of the Post 95 Senior American Legion baseball team’s doubleheader at Centralia Tuesday night, Luke Murfin promised coach Steve Hosick a seven-inning no-hitter.
‘I was kidding around,’ Murfin said.
Centralia would beg to differ.
Despite throwing three innings the night before – and being just 15 years old – Murfin nearly delivered on his half-serious prediction, as the Patoka junior-to-be dominated an overwhelmed host team, completing a Post 95 doubleheader sweep with a one-hit gem.
Centralia’s only safety was a first-inning single, as Murfin got stronger and stronger as the game went along, nearly matching his age in the ‘K’ column with 14 punchouts in an 8-0 win.
The compact 5-foot-8 southpaw’s fastball was popping the mitt of catcher Ryan Thiele from the get-go. And when he established an offspeed pitch after a shaky first inning, Centralia simply didn’t have a chance.
‘My curveball wasn’t working very good the first couple innings, but I settled down after that and it started working,’ Murfin said.
Murfin struck out the side in the second, fourth and sixth innings, fanning five in a row at one point.
The performance surprised Hosick, who wasn’t even sure Murfin would be able to throw coming into the game.
‘I didn’t expect him to throw seven innings, let alone a one-hitter,’ Hosick said. ‘He threw three innings last night and wasn’t on his game. Then I asked him if he wants to throw tonight and he says, ‘Yeah, I’m leaving town to go to Pennsylvania and won’t be here Saturday (for the district tournament)… I wanna throw.”
Post 95 gave Murfin all the support he’d need before he even took the mound, plating four runs in the top of the first.
Trevor Summers had the big blow, plating Brenden Wasmuth and Will Crain with a booming two-run double. Ryan Thiele gave Vandalia a 3-0 lead moments later with a perfectly executed safety squeeze bunt, and Jared Winters capped the rally with a bloop RBI single.
Post 95 blew the game open its next time to the plate, as Summers drove in another run with an RBI single. Centralia basically handed Vandalia a pair of runs by botching two pickoffs, and another run scored due to a two-base throwing error on an Adam Hosick bunt single.
At the time, it seemed Post 95’s offense would be the story of the game. But Murfin quickly stole the show, blowing his coach’s mind in the process.
‘The thing about him is that he doesn’t care that he’s pitching against kids older than him,’ Hosick said. ‘He’s 15 years old. He has four years to play at this level.
‘At first, I was kind of nervous,’ said Murfin of pitching at the Senior Legion level. ‘Not now.’
Another young player for the Senior Legion level – Winters, a Brownstown junior-to-be – put Vandalia in position to sweep the twin-bill by pitching Post 95 to a 4-2 victory in the first game.
Winters took a shutout into the sixth inning and wound up scattering seven hits and striking out three in a complete-game effort.
‘Winters was pretty impressive the first ballgame, too,’ Hosick said. ‘He hadn’t been on the mound for a week and a half. He was in a car wreck and it kind of set him back a little bit, but he was good.’
Winters’ offense missed some opportunities to put together big rallies early on, but wound up providing just enough run support. It also helped that Centralia committed five miscues.
Thiele finished 2-for-2, while Andy Hosick was 2-for-3. Trevor Summers added a double and two runs scored in three at-bats.
Summers finished with three RBIs in Game 2, as Vandalia picked up its first doubleheader sweep of the summer.
‘Finally,’ Hosick said. ‘How many times have I asked these guys this summer to get a doubleheader sweep? And, finally, the week of districts, it’s finally happened.’
Post 95 (6-10) has now won three of four games, and the key to their recent success has been two-fold, according to coach Hosick.
‘I think it has to do with us playing some games back-to-back instead of getting the separation (due to rainouts),’ Hosick said.’ And I still believe when we’ve got pitching there, we’re gonna win.’
Kyle Huber combined for 19 strikeouts over two games and eight innings of work in Vandalia’s doubleheader sweep of Newton Monday. Additional stats were not available for Vandalia’s 13-1 win and 9-7 loss.
It appears the weather should cooperate once again Thursday ,when Vandalia hosts its regular-season finale against Salem at 6 p.m. Post 95 will then take on Newton at 1 p.m. Saturday in the 23rd District Tournament at Effingham’s Evergreen Park.
Vandalia will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament, but the top-seeded host team’s coach wouldn’t be surprised to see Post 95 in the finals.
‘He’s convinced it could very well be us and them in the finals,’ Hosick said. ‘We just have to play ball and avoid mistakes. That’s what it’s gonna boil down to.
‘When our guys are playing good ball, I like our chances.’
Crain will be unavailable to play in the tournament due to rodeo commitments, but former VCHS standout Dallas Gray is expected to join the team.