Deerfield starting pitcher Austin Murphy combined with teammate Johnny Croley for a four-hit shutout in Game 1 on Friday of the Knights’ GISA Class AAA Elite 8 state playoff series against Pinewood. DWS then won Game 2 to sweep. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY — So what’s the secret, Deerfield-Windsor?
How do you bounce back and win 15 in a row, and storm through the playoffs like they were your own personal playground?
“We throw strikes. We field the ball, and we hit the ball,’’ DWS third baseman Lindsey Short said. Then he added the real secret. “We don’t have any superstars. No one cares about individual stuff. We play for each other. That’s the secret.’’
Deerfield’s team is no secret in the GISA Class AAA state tournament.
The Knights are ripping their way through the bracket and are heading to the Final Four after sweeping Pinewood Christian on Friday night in the Elite 8 round of the playoffs.
Austin Murphy and Johnny Croley combined to toss a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 win in the opener, and then Deerfield’s bats took over in a 10-2 win in the nightcap.
Murphy’s ERA dropped to 1.08, and Croley, who pitched the seventh inning to close out Game 2, saw his ERA drop to 2.47. Weston King, who has a 1.55 ERA, went six innings in Game 2 and allowed two runs on just five hits while striking out three. Murphy had three Ks in the opener and gave up four singles over 4 1/3 innings.
“I said earlier that we feel like we can put some guys on the mound and compete, and that has come to fruition for us,’’ DWS coach Rod Murray said.
Three pitchers gave up two runs on Friday, and won the respect of Pinewood (14-10).
“That’s just a good team,’’ Pinewood coach Zach Racket said. “They grind it out at the plate, play good defense and their pitchers hammer the strike zone.’’
Murphy, who is now 8-0, said he didn’t care about striking anyone out.
“Give the credit to the defense,’’ Murphy said. “I try to throw strikes and give my team the best position to win the game.’’
DWS gobbled up everything in both games, and made every play it had to, including a one-of-a-kind unassisted pickoff by King in the second game when he whirled to catch the runner at first halfway to second. King jumped off the mound, faked a couple of throws and then ran the runner down and tagged him out himself.
“Yeah, you don’t see that very often,’’ said King, who had a big day at the plate and on the mound, where he improved to 8-1. “I struggled, but luckily I was able to throw strikes and the defense picked me up.’’
King had three of Deerfield’s 11 hits in Game 2 and drove in two runs with a pair of doubles and a single. He scored twice. Coleman Butler also had two doubles and a single and drove in three runs while scoring twice.
Short went 2-for-3 in the opener and drove in a run in Deerfield’s three-run first inning when the Knights jumped out fast with an RBI double from Webb Harris and an RBI single from Croley before Short delivered his double. The Short brought out his big bat in Game 2, blasting a monster shot over the left field wall in the sixth to go along with an RBI double on a ball hit over the left fielder’s head and off the left field wall in the fourth.
DWS got hits up and down the lineup.
“There was a lot of timely hitting in the second game,’’ Murray said. “I thought we did a good job getting off to a good start in the first game, and we played good defense.’’
The Knights have two more series to go to win a state title, and will likely meet Tattnal Square, an old and familiar rival, next week in the Final Four.
But Murray is more concerned about his kids right now.
“The attitude is great,’’ he said. “Everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction.”