The first four games of the American Legion baseball season have been a tryout of sorts for Lowcountry Heat pitchers, who continue to find their way on a Post 185 club replacing its top three starters from a year ago.
The results have been mixed thus far, as Heat hurlers combined for a 6.12 ERA entering Tuesday night. But Bluffton's Chance Murphy changed all that in his first start of the season, throwing the Heat's first complete game since 2010 in a 3-0 shutout win over Moncks Corner.
"I'm really excited, because this is my first time ever going nine innings," he said. " ... Basically I just let my defense do all the work."
While Murphy did the heavy lifting in his 107-pitch performance, it was Post 185's defense that handled much of the work. The Heat infield turned three double plays, catcher Kevin Campbell threw out a runner attempting to steal, and Murphy picked off a pair of baserunners at first base.
The middle infield combination of Jake Martin and John Sheehan -- both Hilton Head Prep products -- have now turned eight double plays behind Murphy, the pitcher said.
"It's amazing to have those two there," he added. "(First baseman) Randy (Young) did a heck of a job with getting the runners out with his tags. He's so quick with the tags he makes. And with the catcher, I'm not worried about anybody stealing. He's got a quick pop time and he can get it down there."
The right-hander limited Moncks Corner (1-1) to seven hits and three walks in his performance, a far cry from the struggles Heat pitchers endured through the first three games. Post 185 hurlers had issued 24 walks in 25 innings prior to Tuesday, but Murphy altered course after getting both his curveball and changeup over for strikes.
"It's nice to see strikes being thrown," coach Chris Seelbach said. "The first three games we had a ton of walks. It's tough. Normally when you do that, you don't win. But we've gotten timely hitting through the last three or four games and made some good plays on defense."
The Heat (3-1) got all the offense they would need in the second, as Young brought home a pair of runs on a high chopper over the head of Moncks Corner third baseman Zach Mosay. Grant Youmans provided an insurance run two frames later by bringing home Caleb Martin on a sacrifice fly.
Post 185 still left nine men on the basepaths in the victory, continuing a trend from last week when the Heat stranded 11 baseunners against James Island.
"We've left a lot of runners on base," Seelbach said. "We've just got to do a better job of putting the ball in play on the ground."
That may not mean much if Murphy keeps pitching like he is now. The righty lowered his ERA to 1.80 with the victory, making him one of only two pitchers on the roster with an ERA under 6.75.
It's a safe bet Seelbach has found the ace of his staff, right?
"Oh yeah," he said. "He was fantastic."
Moncks Corner 000 000 000 -- 0 7 2
Lowcountry Heat 020 100 0X -- 3 8 1
WP: Chance Murphy (1-0) 9 IP, 0 R, 7 H, 3 BB, 5 K
LP: Zach Gonzales 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Top hitters: Moncks Corner -- Zach Gonzales 2 for 4, 2B; Eric Orton 1 for 3, BB. Lowcountry Heat -- Taylor Place 2 for 4, 2B, R; Kevin Campbell 2 for 4; Randy Young 1 for 3, BB, 2 RBI.