CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- Chances are if you spot Chris Murphy an early lead, it is like money in the bank.
Such was the case Monday afternoon after Billerica scored three times in the top of the first and proceeded to watch its hard-throwing pitcher take over from there en route to a 7-0 triumph over Chelmsford at Harry J. Ayotte Field.
Murphy, a senior righthander, was a force from the get-go. After surrendering a first inning single, the University of Maine commit held the Lions hitless the rest of the way. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder overwhelmed the Chelmsford batters with a tailing fastball, buckling curve and changeup. Going the distance, Murphy also struck out eight.
"Over the first couple of innings I was trying to establish my fastball," said Murphy, who also went 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI. "I also mixed in a few curve balls. Later in the game I lost a little bit of feel for my fastball and tried to balance that off by throwing my curve more. My curve was the best I've had all year today. I really tried to focus on throwing that for strikes."
The Indians (6-2), who lost to eventual Division 1 state champion Bridgewater-Raynham in last year's state semifinal, look to have all the tools to get back there again this season -- or maybe even a berth in the inaugural Division 1A "Super Eight" Tournament.
Murphy, along with brother Kyle and Rob Gambale, provide the Indians with a triple threat attack on the mound. Offensively, Billerica is equally dynamic.
Against Chelmsford (4-4), the Indians banged out eight hits and showed solid patients at the plate by walking six times.
"The only question we had today was would Chris have his control because sometimes that gets him in trouble when he starts to get into a high pitch count," Indians head coach Joe Higgins said. "But he had his control today. There is a lot of breathing room when you get three runs in the first inning like that and he's on the mound.
"It was a tremendous effort by him today. Chris is not a thrower. He's a pitcher. He mixes it up well and knows that he can't just go out there and try to over-power hitters. You've got to pitch to be good and he certainly was."
Billerica wasted little time jumping on Lions starter Jesse Ashley. In the top of the first inning, the sophomore righty served up a double and single respectively, to table setters Gambale and Cody Parsons, putting runners on the corners. Kyle Murphy followed with a ground out which scored Gambale to make it 1-0.
Moments later, Chris Murphy lined a single to left plating Parsons. Murphy would eventually come around to score on Adam Mahrez's single up the middle.
The Indians padded their lead to four one frame later. Gambale walked and advanced to third on a wild pitch. On the play, Lions catcher Derek Adamson's tried to gun down Gambale at third but his throw sailed into left allowing the senior to score easily.
"We've got a lot of young kids on this team that are contributing and we have a good balance of older players and younger players," Murphy said. "I think we are really starting to kick it into gear right now."
Following Mark Keller's lead off single in the first, Chelmsford looked to be over-matched by Murphy for the remainder of this tilt. Meanwhile, the Indians offense was experiencing no problems in that department. In their half of the fourth, Cam Climo led things off with a single and then stole second. One out later, the sophomore made it a 5-0 contest, scoring on Parsons' single to centerfield.
Billerica increased its advantage to six runs in the fifth thanks to Eric Eknaian's lead off home run. The senior demonstrated his power as he was able to drive out a low, outside curve from Ashley off his front foot over the rock ledge wall in left field. The Indians scored their final run one inning later against reliever Daylon Thompson without the benefit of a hit. Thompson, who had retired the first two batters with ease, soon developed control issues as he walked the next four batters.
"Their kid is a very good pitcher," said Lions head coach Mike O'Keefe. "We didn't have a very good approach at the plate but I give (Murphy) a lot of credit for that. He really made it difficult for us. Obviously it took a lot out of our game to be down 3-0 right off the bat like that. We tried to go out and win innings but Billerica just kept tacking on runs. That first inning really killed us today."