GREENBELT – Eleanor Roosevelt High School junior first baseman/pitcher Todd Murphy still remembers walking off the field after the Raiders season-ending loss to Charles H. Flowers High School in the MPSSAA 4A South Sectional Final. Flowers scored one run in the third inning, which was all it needed to move on to the regional final.
“That was just one time where they just get one and we didn’t have the offense,” Murphy said. “We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Roosevelt has done just that to start the season, winning their first seven games heading into a crucial doubleheader with the Jaguars on April 16. Both teams have gone undefeated in 2019, with each win coming by at least six runs.
For Raiders Head Coach Andrew Capece, it all starts with his team’s pitching and defense. Murphy has been strong again after being one of the team’s main pitchers last year, and Brian Bailey has stepped up to replace Devin Robinson and give the Raiders a solid 1-2 punch on the mound.
“We lost (Robinson) who was our No. 1 or No. 2 with Todd and Brian slid into that spot and he’s been real good,” Capece said.
Capece said he’s been looking to work in some other pitchers to complement Bailey and Murphy but hasn’t got the chance yet due to games being rained out or called for mercy rule. Juniors Andy Orwig, Damon Pigrom and Wesley Shoemaker have all pitched this year.
The group has had a fundamentally sound defense behind them, allowing just 12 runs all season. It starts with senior Derek Ohringer, who Capece says does a “little bit of everything” by playing both shortstop and catcher. Capece also said CJ Hopkins has excelled at third base, and Chris Jones has adapted well after moving from the hot corner to second base this season.
“I think it’s contagious,” Ohringer said. “When you’re out there and a pitcher’s walking guys and guys are making errors, it’s really easy to fall into that. You get sleepy in the field. But when everything is sharp and crisp, it helps the pitcher because if the pitcher’s confident in his defense he’s out there throwing strikes and not worrying too much.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Raiders have had an excellent offense all year, scoring at least seven runs in each game and outscoring opponents 88-12. Capece said Jones has done a great job setting the tone as a leadoff hitter and did not strike out for the first time until the Raiders faced Parkdale in their seventh game of the season. Ohringer has gotten timely hits as well, and Hopkins has been strong batting cleanup.
“Once we get our offense going, we’re pretty unstoppable,” Murphy said.
Despite solid offensive production, there’s still room for improvement. Capece said his team can improve on situational hitting, which has been inconsistent so far. Roosevelt took until the fifth inning to score in a 7-0 win over Bowie, jumped on Wise for sevens run in the first two innings and scored none the rest of the way in an easy win and didn’t get going against Parkdale until the fourth inning of a 10-3 rout.
Rainouts have limited their opportunities against competition but allows them to refocus on the fundamentals in practice. Those opportunities will be at a premium against better competition, and Capece said his team needs to be ready to execute.
“I’m probably being a little bit greedy,” he said. “I always want a little better. Especially in some situations we’ve had, guys in scoring position, less than two outs where we haven’t gotten the runs in.”
However, Capece is confident in his small but mighty 13-player roster, which he believes has the pieces to be playing its best baseball by the postseason. He knows his team likes to talk about winning a state championship, which the Raiders have only done once back in 2007 but instead decides to focus on the little things that add up to the big end result.
“My goal is for these guys to get better day-by-day and by the end of the year we’re as good as we can be and give it our best shot,” Capece said.