Mother Nature slows start of Murray High School’s baseball season
Apr 29, 2019 09:34AM
● By Carl Fauver
MHS first baseman Jonah McBride (R) tries to tag an Olympus base runner. (glossy-sports-photos.smugmug.com)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
April showers are well known for bringing May flowers… but they also wreak havoc on the Utah high school baseball season more often than not.
Such was the case this year – in the two weeks leading into Easter – just as the Murray Spartans were gearing up to open their Region 6 baseball season – with three games scheduled, over four days – against rival Olympus Titans.
Poor weather forced two of the games into a single-day doubleheader. And, as of press time, coach Marce Wilson’s team was still searching for enough dry grass to get the third game in, while also wondering how many other region games would have to be put on hold.
The Spartans particularly wanted to get off to a quick start in their region season, because Olympus has established itself as a firm thorn in the Murray baseball team’s side. For three years running, the Spartans and Titans have been the top two teams in the region, with Murray claiming the region crown in 2016 and 2017, while placing second to Olympus last season.
Then, in all three of those seasons, it was that same Titan team that ousted MHS from the state baseball tournament.
That’s what made the March 12 doubleheader particularly satisfying for the Murray bunch, as they swept both games from Olympus at Ken Price Field, next to Murray Park. The scores were 4-3 in the first game, followed by a 14-4 blowout in the second.
The Spartans trailed most of the first game, before scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to come from behind. Senior Murray first baseman Jonah McBride hit the walk-off single to complete the comeback.
“We are aware we have lost those state tournament games to Olympus and they are definitely one of our biggest rivals,” McBride said. “So, getting the walk-off hit to win the first game was great, and I think it gave us a little extra confidence going to the second game.”
Eighth year head coach Wilson said before the games he still considers Olympus to be the team to beat in Region 6 this spring, despite losing a lot of kids off last year’s Titan team.
“Olympus had 15 seniors on their team last year, when they went undefeated in region,” the coach said. “And despite losing all those kids (to graduation), they should still be our biggest competition again this year. They have the best feeder program in our region. Murray’s feeder program is down a bit.”
Wilson expects Skyline, Highland and West High Schools to also be competitive.
“Skyline has a new coach and kids always play hard for a new coach,” Wilson added. “And Highland returns almost their entire team.”
With 11 seniors graduating a year ago, Murray lost nearly as many players to graduation as Olympus. Second baseman Easton Sprague is one of only five seniors on this year’s team.
“We’re a young team; but I think we can do pretty well,” Sprague said. “We will make the state tournament as a top seed, I believe. I’m sad to see my Murray baseball career coming to an end. I have been coached by coach Wilson for seven years. He has made me a better player. It will be tough when it ends.”
However, Sprague also already knows he will be playing baseball again a year from now, at the next level.
“I’ve signed to play for Mt. Hood Community College (outside Portland, Oregon),” he said. “Last October, my dad and I drove up to visit four Oregon schools. I liked the vibe (Mt. Hood CC) had.”
McBride is hoping for the same opportunity.
“I have been talking to my coaches and would definitely like to play college baseball,” the senior first baseman said. “But I have already earned an academic scholarship at the University of Utah. So, it would have to be a good opportunity to pass that up to play baseball somewhere else.”
Ironically, 30 years ago Wilson was pitching against Murray High School – in the 1989 state baseball tournament – while playing for West High. A few years later (1995), Wilson pitched three games in the NAIA College World Series for Bellevue University (south of Omaha, Nebraska), in route to that school’s national baseball championship.
A week later the New York Yankees drafted Wilson. But a severe shoulder injury kept him from reporting to the team.
“I kind of had enough by then and figured the (NAIA) championship was a good way to go out,” he said.
Coaching the Spartans this spring is the kind of challenge Wilson said he enjoys.
“We are certainly inexperienced this season; but that makes it fun to coach,” he said. “You really have to teach players, in order to get the most out of them.”