SOPHOMORE SENSATION — Jill Murray throws a pitch at Cleveland Hill, where she tied a Section VI record by striking out 23 batters on April 10. Photo by Staff Photographer Jeffrey Barnes.
The defending Pitcher of the Year opened the season up with a memorable performance that Western New York has not seen the likes of in almost 10 years.
Jill Murray put herself in good company on April 10 when she entered the school and state record books.
In the first game of her sophomore season, Murray struck out 23 batters on opening day to begin the season with a 4-2 triumph at Cleveland Hill in an 11-inning thriller.
The 23-strikeout performance is the most by anyone in the history of Eden’s softball program.
Murray also tied the Section VI mark in the process, set by Williamsville South’s Chelsea Plimpton in 2005.
Last year’s ECIC IV Pitcher of the Year is also in the state record books with the fourth highest mark in NYSPHSAA history. Chelsea Hawks of Shoreham Wading River is the current state record holder, retiring 27 batters in 13 innings last May.
Murray went the distance on the hill that evening. She only walked one batter and allowed just two hits to open up the season with a win for the defending Class B1 Section VI champion.
“I was very proud of her after I found out she struck out 23 girls in one game,” said Eden’s catcher Sabrina Kraska, who caught for Murray during her record-breaking game. “That’s awesome for her. She’s an amazing athlete and I’m honored to catch for her.”
Murray wasn’t too shabby on offense, either. Up by one in the eleventh inning, Murray gave the Raiders a two-run cushion when she drove in a runner at the top of the eleventh inning to take a 4-2 advantage.
Eden head coach Marisa Fallacaro has two aces in Murray and junior Carly Nasca, an ECIC IV First Team selection. Both were brought up two seasons ago and had to wait for their time behind Nasca’s sister, Alexis, who is now playing at Oswego and pitched almost every inning during her senior season at Eden.
“Carly and Jill are two different pitchers, but they both are great pitchers,” Fallacaro noted. “I would like to go half-and-half, but usually they’re having such a great game.”
“Jill was having such a great game today so why take her out?”
It was just one of many tight games between Eden’s division rival during the trip to Cheektowaga. Cleve Hill catcher Emily Maziarz tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning when she sent a two-run shot deep into centerfield.
That was just one of two hits Murray allowed that evening.
Despite the hiccup, Murray kept her composure and shut the Eagles out for the final five innings to leave with a victory.
“She is very hard to rattle,” said Ed Murray, Jill’s father and assistant softball coach at Eden. “She’s ice on the mound, you know what I mean? She plays at a high level and stays there the whole game. She doesn’t let the emotions of the game get to her.”
“I love catching for Jill, especially when she has amazing games like she did [against Cleve Hill],” added Kraska. “When we all get rattled, she’s always calm and we can count on her to get us out of the inning, let alone a game.”
Maziarz knows Murray all too well. She had the opportunity to catch for the sophomore standout during the travel season, as well as face her in league games twice each spring.
“I caught her,” said Maziarz, who played with Murray on her Team Nike travel team. “Her movement and the way that she can throw the ball is unreal. Especially at her age.”
Voted as the Pitcher of the Year for her freshman season, Murray helped lead the Raiders to the program’s first sectional title in over 20 years by retiring 15 batters in a win over Depew in the B1 championship last May.
“I just wanted to do really good every game,” Murray said about her freshman year. “We just came together as a team and made a good run.”
Murray went 9-2 with one save on the mound during her ninth grade campaign. She posted a 1.66 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched.
She was just as effective on the offensive end last spring when she began seeing plenty of playing time after spending her eighth grade season as a backup.
Murray had 28 hits last year, which ranked third on the team. She drove in the second highest amount of runners on the team with 13. She also batted a .384 at the plate as a freshman.
The standout pitcher was also always on the move, as her 20 runs scored led all of Eden’s Lady Raiders last spring.