June 25th, 2024

Mavs’ Murphy named WMBL coach of the year

By Sean Rooney on August 2, 2018.


srooney@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNRooney

One of the best regular season performances in Western Major Baseball League history was rewarded Wednesday.

Andrew Murphy was named the league’s coach of the year after his Medicine Hat Mavericks put up a 38-9 record — second only to the 2013 Mavericks who went 39-7.

“Early on we did a really good job setting a precedent of doing jobs offensively, not just going out and swinging,” said Murphy prior to Wednesday’s playoff game against Lethbridge. “We were here to win games. They caught on to that and rolled with it.”

A first-time head coach after assisting Michael Thompson in Medicine Hat last year, the North Carolina product has spent four years coaching at Henderson State in Arkansas.

Though blessed with a talented roster, perhaps his best attribute has been keeping his players level-headed through the long, sometimes gruelling summer season. Most college players aren’t used to playing games seven days a week.

“We have the utmost respect for that guy,” said catcher Colton Wright, himself named a first-team all-star. “He’s the same day-in, day-out whether we’re winning or losing. He knows what’s got to get done for us to have success and he gives us the opportunity to have success, which is all you can ask for.”

The job’s not done, of course. Murphy and any of the award winners would gladly trade their personal accolades for a league trophy in a couple weeks.

With five players on the all-star rosters, Murphy figures his club can at least take a bit of confidence out of the awards.

“On the ballots I saw there was a coach of the year, I was hoping to get it,” he admitted. “It’s awesome.

“This league is extremely tough because guys put up crazy numbers. If you get an award in this league, it’s legit.”

Wright’s been legit since before the season even started. The team used an app to connect players — many of whom had never met in person — prior to arriving in the Gas City.

The second-year catcher led the way in that communication and has led on the field too, with a .345 batting average, nine home runs and 47 RBI.

“I think I matured as a player,” said Wright. “I put in a lot of work, work to handle my struggles because you’re going to stuggle in this game, how to minimize it.”

Wright would’ve been in the conversation for league MVP, but that went to Weyburn’s Corey Wheaton. Wheaton batted .372, stole a league-high 30 bases but only had 15 RBI for the Eastern Division champs.

The league sent ballots to each team for its award winners and all-star voting, with instructions not to vote for anybody on your own team.

Other Mavericks to make all-star teams were shortstop Carson Johnson, second baseman and hometown product Nolan Rattai on the first team, plus centre-fielder David Salgueiro and pitcher Jumpei Akunama on the second team.

Lethbridge had two major award winners, with Kaleb Warden named rookie of the year and catcher Jaret Semeniuk earning Canadian rookie of the year.

See BULLS, Page A10

Warden didn’t even know there were awards to be handed out until a friend texted him that he’d won one.

“It’s my first time in the league, I’ve got a buddy that plays on Regina and he sent me a text,” said Warden, who hit .369 with seven home runs and 38 RBI. “I thought ‘huh, that’s pretty cool.’

“For me personally it’s a huge thing, this is the first summer league I’ve played realistic college baseball. I took a year off, transferred schools, so to come back, go to school and be able to have a good time (is great).”

Semeniuk wasn’t as surprised, coming from the PBA in Lethbridge and growing up in Edmonton where the Prospects have a high profile.

“I was pretty clear-minded at the start of the year, I was just trying to help the team out, do whatever I could in the field and hitting-wise,” said Semeniuk, who hit .371.

Bulls on the all-star teams were first baseman Warden (first team) and third baseman Dylan Borman (second team).

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