The Associated Press
The Associated Press
TEMPE – Arizona State baseball coach Pat Murphy took a break from a rambling, hour-long news conference this week to address the half-dozen cameramen recording the proceedings from the back of the room.
“You camera guys have got to be bored to death,” Murphy said. “You’re used to covering, like, big stuff. Not some guy with a dirty shirt on that hasn’t showered.”
The 48-year-old Murphy is as unpolished as a batting-practice ball, and he’s been an acquired taste for some of the program’s followers. But Murphy and the fifth-seeded Sun Devils will be big stuff if they win their first national title since 1981.
The Sun Devils open the College World Series against UC-Irvine Saturday at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium. ASU (48-13) is 5-0 in the postseason after sweeping the regionals and super regionals, both in Tempe.
Murphy is only the third coach in the program’s history. With 528 career victories at ASU, he recently moved past Bobby Winkles into second place behind the late Jim Brock, who won 1,110 games.
Winkles won three national titles and Brock two, including that one in 1981.
Now it’s Murphy’s turn, and this may be his best team yet. But he insists a national title won’t change the way he looks at himself.
“I go down the street tomorrow and rob a 7-11, that’s going to be my legacy,” Murphy said. “That’s my choice. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, and whatever other people feel my legacy is about, if there is such a thing, that’s their opinion. It’s none of my business. I know who I am.”
Murphy’s job security doesn’t hinge on what happens in Omaha. Last summer, Arizona State extended his contract through 2011 at an annual salary of $272,424.
Murphy has a staunch supporter in former Sun Devil Barry Bonds, who played for Brock from 1983-85. Bonds called Murphy “my ASU boy.”
Bonds said he has talked to Murphy about helping to renovate Packard Stadium, although no timeframe has been established. Bonds will be rooting for Murphy this weekend.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Bonds said. “Schools go in cycles. I remember when Texas and Cal-State Fullerton were the teams. Now ASU’s doing their thing.”
Murphy’s players spoke with confidence about their chances in Omaha. With three solid starting pitchers and a lineup that led the Pac-10 in every major hitting category, the Sun Devils are among the favorites.
“If we stick to our plan and play to our potential, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” captain Rocky Laguna said.
The Sun Devils downplay talk of winning a title for Murphy. But for many, he’s one of the main reasons they came to Tempe in the first place.
“He loves to be here with us, and we love him,” said second baseman Eric Sogard, the Pac-10′s defensive player of the year. “His goal is just to mature us.”
College World Series capsules
No. 1 OREGON STATE (44-18): Despite losing two key starting pitchers, closer and several starters from last year’s lineup, Beavers looking to join Texas (1949-50), USC (1970-74), Stanford (1987-88) and LSU (1996-97) as only consecutive winners. Darwin Barney has 231 career hits, five shy of Jacoby Ellsbury’s school record.
No. 2 RICE (54-12): Owls return to Omaha for second straight year and fourth time in six years. … Owls won title in 2003. … 1B-LHP Joe Savery Savery, a first-round pick of Philadelphia, was Conference USA player of year.
No. 3 NORTH CAROLINA (53-13): Last year’s CWS runner-up is first Atlantic Coast Conference team to make consecutive trips to Omaha since Florida State in 1999 and 2000. … 3B Chad Flack hit go-ahead two-run HR vs. South Carolina in super regional clincher.
No. 4 UC-IRVINE (45-15-1): Anteaters making first CWS appearance in sixth year back in Division I. RHP Blair Erickson is NCAA’s career leader in saves with 53.
No. 5 ASU (48-13): 1B Brett Wallace (.423, 16, 78) led Pac-10 in Triple Crown categories in regular season and was named conference player of year.
No. 6 MISSISSIPPI ST. (38-20): CF Jeffrey Rea (.338, 1, 22) is school’s career leader in hits (331).
No. 7 LOUISVILLE (46-22): RHP Zack Pitts (10-3, 2.23), was selected Big East pitcher of year, pitching 117 innings and limiting opponents to .217 average.
No. 8 CAL STATE FULLERTON (38-23): Titans are in fourth CWS in five years. C John Curtis (.284, 6, 45) and 3B Evan McArthur (.253, 4, 31) are two of only six Titans players to make three CWS trips.
• World Series schedule, 7C