So far this season, area baseball and softball players at state schools have been plying their craft in much warmer climes — Florida, mostly.
Jealous? You should be.
Now, with the overdue coming of spring, their game is starting to finally drift north, and some have already started to blossom.
Consider Wallingford’s Brian Murphy. The sophomore pitcher out of Sheehan was the cornerstone of the University of Hartford’s 3-2 win Wednesday over UConn. While the right-hander did not get the decision, he left the game after six sharp innings with a 2-1 lead (blown by the pen, which subsequently got the win).
Murphy scattered five hits while fanning four and walking none.
It was his second strong outing in a row. Murphy pitched 5 1/3 scoreless, allowing just three hits and again walking none while striking out six, in a victory over UMass.
After four starts, the former Titan is 1-0 with a 1.76 ERA (3 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings pitched). He’s surrendered 11 hits and fives walks; he’s struck out 10. Opponents are hitting just .190 against him.
This is Murphy’s first year starting with the Hawks (11-8). Last year, as a freshman, he was used strictly in relief, going 0-2 with a 4.36 ERA.
Elsewhere in the state, UConn-Avery Point is off to an 11-3 start with a roster that includes sophomore center fielder Kevin Hall of Meriden and sophomore pitcher Ryan Formanski and freshman catcher Rob Sprafke, both of Wallingford. Hall was a key piece in Avery Point’s run to last year’s NJCAA Division II World Series.
In the Little East, where weather has delayed conference openers scheduled for this week, Western (8-4) and Eastern (6-3) have both started well. Jockeying for playing time at the latter school are four local sophomores: catcher Ryan Thayer of Meriden, catcher Tim Budd of Cheshire, and infielder Jeff Zajac and outfielder Derek Allen, both of Wallingford.
At Western, there’s a deep Southington connection. The Colonials are now in their 15th season under head coach John Susi, a Southington transplant. Former Blue Knights Alex Roger and Craig Frobel have both pitched in four games and freshman Dave Palladino is looking to earn time in the infield.
Roger’s outings have all been in relief. The junior is 1-1 with two saves and 2.45 ERA.
Frobel, a sophomore, has both started and relieved. He went the distance in one game and is 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA. In 15 innings, Frobel has fanned 20.
Over at CCSU, Susi’s son Brett has made three relief appearances for the Blue Devils. A year removed from leading the Blue Knights to the CIAC Class LL championship game, Susi has given up two hits, no runs and one walk while whiffing two in 3 2/3 IP.
Teammate Dom Severino, a junior infielder and spot pitcher out of Cheshire, is batting .278 through Central’s first 10 games. The Blue Devils are 4-6 with Seton Hall due in New Britain today for a noon doubleheader.
Southington’s Rachel Harvey is starting to find the groove in her freshman season at the University of Maine. The catcher went a combined 4-for-7 with four RBIs and belted her first collegiate home run to lead the Black Bears to a pair of wins over Hartford. The performance earned Harvey, the backstop in Southington’s Class LL championship a year ago, Rookie of the Week honors in the America East.
At Western, the bat of Southington’s Julia Bocek and the right arm of Meriden’s Alle Sabith have been key factors in a 12-4 start for the Colonials, who have won seven straight.
Bocek, a junior first baseman, is bopping at a .312 clip. Eight of her 15 hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs. She’s driven in nine.
Sabith, a sophomore, has pitched in 12 of Western’s 16 games, starting eight. The former Maloney star is 7-3 with a 1.68 ERA.
There is also a Southington-Maloney tandem at Eastern, where the 4-8 Warriors are looking to get untracked. Senior outfielder Stephanie Johnson, the former Blue Knight, is hitting .280. Sophomore catcher/outfielder Taylor Smith, the former Spartan, is batting .286.
On Tuesday, ECSU plays at Trinity in Hartford.