With South Australia’s 1-0 victory in game three of the 2009/2010 Dominos Claxton Shield semi-final series against NSW on Sunday at Norwood Oval – to qualify for its first grand final in 30 years – there were at least two spectacular highlights.
One was pitcher Ryan Murphy’s home run in the second inning and the other rightfielder Dan Wilson’s sensational catch in the third.
Both players have unique perspectives of their ‘moment’ in the spotlight.
“The funny thing is on the Wednesday before at training the outfielders practiced catching balls hit over our heads and finding the fence,” Wilson said.
“So on Sunday when Lysaught hit that ball, I felt it was almost routine, which is the way I approached it at the time. I tracked back, took a quick peak over my shoulder at the fence, jumped and took the catch.
“I knew right off the bat I was going to make the play. But I did have a lot of help from D-Wash (centrefielder Dave Washington). When going back it is important to have communication and he was calling me in.
“Only afterwards when looking at the footage did it seem a bit more impressive than what I thought at the time. It actually seemed a lot slower off the bat. The way the wind was blowing I think perhaps the cosmic stars were aligned.
“Thinking back now I remember looking over the fence as I caught it and seeing the grass on the other side, then landing back with the ball in my glove and feeling pretty good.”
After the game the players gathered to watch the catch on video, with Washington’s reaction saying it all. One minute he looks down-trodden as the ball went over the fence, but was pumping his fists when he realised Wilson had actually taken the catch.
As for Murphy’s effort, not only did he hit the home run for the only score of the night, he pitched a complete game two-hit shut-out.
“For me, I went up to bat in the second inning thinking the pitcher was a soft-throwing lefty and had the attitude I would wait for the right pitch to hit,” Murphy said.
“With so much off-speed stuff coming down, I just thought I’d sit back and wait for a good pitch to drive the other way. He threw three off speed pitches and then tried a fast ball, which I was right on top of.
“It was exactly what I wanted, to hit it the other way, and it happened to get out of the ball-park. I knew it was gone off the bat. For the rest of the game I just focused on pitching, I didn’t think too much about the home run.
“I have to admit it was one of the biggest and most exciting games I’ve pitched in. I’ve thrown in some important games in Holland and here for Port Adelaide in finals, which were pretty intense, but this was obviously another step up. It was a great feeling, I’ve probably never pitched in a game of this magnitude.”
South Australian manager Tony Harris has been around the game in Australia and around the world for over 30 years and said Wilson’s catch was as good as it gets.
“You see a lot of great catches on highlight reels but rarely do you get to see one in real life,” Harris said. “We were blessed to see it, and it was a game-winning catch.
“And Ryan’s effort was an amazing performance. You do not see too many complete game shutouts, and his approach to that at bat was very good. He got his pitch to drive the other way, which is his strength, and it stood up.”
South Australia will play Victoria at Latrobe University in Melbourne for the 2009/2010 Dominos Claxton Shield title from 7.30pm on Friday. Game two will be played at 7.30pm on Saturday, with, if required, game three on Sunday at 1.30pm.