BILLERICA, Mass. -- If Chris Murphy is not considered the top high school baseball player in Massachusetts, then undoubtedly he is a close second.
Murphy, a behemoth of a player who stands 6-4, 250-lbs, is the anchor behind the Billerica Indians' already successful season. On Saturday, versus Merrimack Valley Conference foe North Andover, Murphy had quite a day. On the mound, the senior righty handcuffed the Scarlet Knights for six innings, allowing just one hit (a Jake Caporale double) and fanned nine.
At the plate, he belted a pair of home runs and drove in three to lead Billerica to a 7-2 triumph at Hall of Fame Field.
Throughout the week, the Murphy household has been battling flu-like symptoms. In fact, Murphy did not play in the Indians previous game against Tewksbury on Thursday due to illness. Still a bit under the weather against North Andover, Murphy was able to gut it out despite getting a bit worn down as this game progressed.
"As the innings carried on I was feeling it a little more than I did in those first couple of innings," said Murphy, who is committed to play at the University of Maine next season and could potentially be selected in next month's MLB Amateur Draft. "I just needed to battle through it. It felt good to go out there and pitch six innings."
The Scarlet Knights (5-9) hung with the Indians for much of this contest. A lot of that had to do with starting pitcher Tyler Lee. The senior righthander was able to hit his spots around the plate consistently, keeping the Billerica batters at a standstill with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches.
"Billerica is a good team so I knew I needed to go out there and attack and try to throw strikes," said Lee, who is a converted catcher. "There is not much you can throw past (Murphy) because he seems to hit everything."
In the top half of the fourth, North Andover took advantage of some wildness by Murphy as the fatigue factor began to settle in. Three walks and two hit batsmen resulted in a pair of runs.
"In that inning when I walked some of their guys and hit a couple is when I started to feel it," Murphy said. "It was a little bit of fatigue and a little bit of sickness. I came down with it two days ago so I'm still kind of in the recovery process."
In the bottom of the frame, Murphy, on the first pitch he saw, drove a high slider well over the left field fence for his first round-tripper of the day, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
One inning later, the Indians (9-3) jumped in front for good. A single by Cam Climo was followed by a Brad Fisher triple making it 2-2. Rob Gambale then hit a deep SAC fly which scored Fisher with the go-ahead run.
Billerica, a strong candidate for a Super 8 berth, would put this tilt out of reach in the sixth after scoring four more times. Eric Eknaian (2 hits) opened with a single. Murphy then strode up to the plate and once again, on Lee's first pitch, launched a hanging curve deep over the left field fence to put Billerica up 5-2.
"It felt good to get up there and hit a couple of home runs and help the team out," said Murphy. "We really hadn't hit the ball well in the first few innings. I think after that first home run we all started hitting the ball, got our base runners moving and began to score some runs."
With Lee's day completed, having allowed six hits and fanning three, it was now up to junior reliever Evan Glew to keep it a three-run deficit. After striking out Kevin Faria, the lefty walked Nate Doiron, issued a single to Climo (2 hits) and plunked Fisher to load the bases.
Max Guertin was brought replacing Glew. Facing Gambale, Guertin, a side-winding lefthander, tried to sneak an fastball in on the senior but Gambale turned on it, doubling high off the left field fence (just missing a homer by a matter of inches) to bring home Doiron and Climo with Billerica's sixth and seventh runs.
"We've been competitive all year but it seems like one inning here or one inning there we make a critical mistake," Scarlet Knights head coach Todd Dulin said. "We need to figure out things soon. I thought Tyler pitched well for us today. He's been our go-to guy this year and has gotten some big wins for us."
With Murphy out of the game to start the seventh, his younger brother Kyle took over on the mound. The junior, also not 100 percent health-wise, would load the bases before working his way out of the jam and come away unscathed.
"We came back and that is the positive in all of this," Indians head coach Joe Higgins said. "We started off slow but finally woke up. When these kids get hot they get hot. But we are a team that needs to start playing good ball right from the get-go. We can't keep waiting around until the late innings to do something.
"It was really good to see Chris go out there and pitch a one-hitter through six innings and then hit two bombs after coming off the flu. It was a pretty unbelievable day for him."