BERLIN - When the Berlin Legion baseball team entered the summer it wasnâ€™t sure what to exactly expect. It believed it had the talent, just not of a lot of experience to go with it.
A little under two months later, itâ€™s easy to say Berlin exceeded expectations. The team finished with a 16-5 record, reached the Pod C final in the Legion state tournament and tied for the fifth-best winning percentage in the state.
Berlinâ€™s talented youth was on full display in Tuesdayâ€™s elimination game win against Moosup, the teamâ€™s biggest game of the season up until that point with sophomore Camden Murphy leading the way.
Getting the start on the mound, Murphy gave up six hits in a complete game, helping Berlin stay alive with a 3-2 win. After the game, Van Etten said the performance was a perfect representation of why Murphy has the ability to develop into what he believes can be one of the best arms in the state.
â€śHe didnâ€™t have his best stuff [that afternoon],â€ť Van Etten said. â€śHe didnâ€™t have good velocity like he normally does, but he battled all game. The kid is 15 years old and he battled against a great team with some big kids. That shows you that this kid is so mature and already knows what he needs to do to keep his composure.â€ť
Murphy appreciates Van Ettenâ€™s confidence in him and sees playing Legion baseball as a greater chance to get on the mound and develop his pitches.
â€śI love getting the opportunity to pitch,â€ť Murphy said. â€śWhen I do, I try to deliver the best that I can. If Iâ€™m off, which has happened as a couple times this year, I come out and just try to use it as a learning experience so I can come out the next game even stronger. In high school, or say AAU, I may not get the chance to pitch every game or every other game. Here I get the chance to pitch and show myself.â€ť
Van Etten said that he saw the potential in Murphy throughout the high school season as he continued to rise while other pitchers struggled and battled injuries.
â€ś[Murphy] was right up near the top, if not the top, high school pitcher this year,â€ť Van Etten said. â€śWe try to instill in our guys to want the ball. He wants the ball. He and [Adam] Bilinski are building and building from last year, and now Iâ€™d trust them in any game.â€ť
Berlinâ€™s season officially ended when it lost in the Pod C final to Ellington 6-4, but Van Etten is already ready for next year. With nearly the entire squad coming back and some other promising younger players set to join, 2019 could be Berlinâ€™s year to make a run at a state championship.
â€śLast year, our goal was to be competitive in [Zone 7],â€ť Van Etten said. â€śI think we finished second. This year, our goal was to win it and we won it. Next year, our goal will be to build off of it and go even further, and I think we will have the team to do it.â€ť
Tyler Roaix can be reached at email@example.com