LIMA — Tyler Murphy hadn’t started a game since high school.
No big deal for the Lima Locos right-hander.
He simply warmed up earlier, then went out and dominated.
Murphy fired six innings of one-run ball to help the Locos post a 5-3 victory over Dayton in a one-game, winner-take-all quarterfinal playoff series Tuesday at Simmons Field.
The Locos, the No. 4 seed, advance to the best-of-three semifinals series against No. 1 seed Southern Ohio in the Great Lakes Collegiate League. Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. tonight at Simmons Field. Games 2 and 3 will be at Athens.
“He’s been our best pitcher in the second half of the year,” Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger said of his decision to start Murphy, who went 3-1 with a 2.95 in relief this summer.
Murphy (Southeastern University, Lakeland, Fla.) proved he could go six innings when he tossed six innings (one earned run) of relief in a win over Licking County on July 21.
“I was pretty shocked that he wanted to start me. I haven’t started since high school,” Murphy said. “I’ve always been a bullpen guy. … I had to pace myself and spot my pitches.”
Murphy said the biggest difference was warming up before the sun set.
“I started (warming up) at 6:30 (for the 7 p.m. start) and I was done by 6:45,” Murphy said. “I was good to go, then I had to wait 15 minutes before the game started. … The only thing different tonight was warming up early.”
Murphy had a strong fastball, along with a breaking ball, slider and change-up. He ended up giving up three hits and one unearned run. He struck out six and walked none.
Murphy threw 101 pitches, 65 for strikes. He threw 54.2 percent first-pitch strikes and 64.4 percent strikes overall.
“That’s (101 pitches) an unheard of number for me,” he said with a laugh.
The Locos went out to a 3-0 lead in the first when Dayton left-hander Sully Stadler (Indiana) had trouble locating the plate.
A.J. Flores returned from going head-first into center-field post last week. In the first inning, he doubled with one out. He came home on an error by the Dayton third baseman.
“A.J.’s been on fire,” Ehrnsberger said. “He was our top hitter over the last month of the season.”
Flores said, “Since they gave me five days off, I thought that was enough. Yesterday I felt good and today I took BP (batting practice) and I saw everything fine.”
The Locos made it 2-0 in the first on a double steal, when Cody Strong stole second and Casey Schroeder stole home on the back end of the play.
Stadler then walked four in a row. When Shawn Sanders walked with the bases loaded, the Locos took a 3-0 lead.
Flores’ RBI double in the sixth gave the Locos a 5-1 lead.
Dayton scored two in the eighth off of reliever Aron McRee to get within 5-3.
Art Warren, who had four saves late in the season, came on in the ninth. He struck out the first two hitters, then walked Daulton Mosbarger. Warren then struck out Jacob Brobst to end it for the save.
“Art has earned it (the closer’s role),” Ehrnsberger said. “Looking back, I wish I could have put him in that role sooner.”
Flores went 2 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI. Jose Cruz went 2 for 3 with a double.
Locos notes: The Locos will start right-hander Keaton Baker (Middle Tennessee State) today. Baker went 3-1 with a 1.78 during the year. … Southern Ohio went 25-15 this year. The Locos went 3-1 against Southern Ohio this year, including a 12-11, 15-inning win on July 13 at Simmons Field. … Southern first team all-GLCL players are third baseman Jesse Puscheck, designated hitter Taylor Burch and reliever Anthony Miskiewicz.
Locos vs. Docs