Reaching the peak: Former MAU softball star earns Hall of Fame call
BENNINGTON -- Becky (Palmer) Murphy wasn’t always a pitcher. In fact, the former Mount Anthony Union High School softball star played second base.
"There was another girl who only wanted to pitch," Murphy said from her home in Parma, Ohio. "I just wanted to play, I didn’t care where."
Murphy, 34, was recently inducted into the Case Western Reserve University Hall of Fame, the first softball player at the Cleveland school to earn the coveted honor.
"It’s a big honor to pave the way for other players," Murphy said. "It was a neat experience to be a part of."
But Murphy’s career started in Bennington, playing for the Patriots varsity in 1995 and 1996, and leading the MAU softball program to a resurgence after the team hadn’t reached the postseason for four seasons.
"She was a wonderful kid, you couldn’t ask for any more from her," said former MAU softball coach B.J. Woodard.
Murphy played on the JV her freshman year, but was unable to play at all as a sophomore because of a health condition that knocked her out of school for more than two months.
As a junior, though, along with fellow pitcher Nicole Ruprecht, she came back with a vengeance, leading the Patriots to the 1995 finals against Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans. The pair switched back and forth on the mound during the year and won their first 13 games.
"Nothing was going to stop her, she was a bulldog," said Woodard, who coached at MAU for 15 seasons, winning 155 games. "She never had a super fastball, but she could locate (the ball) anywhere. She was a little like Greg Maddux. She had the intelligence and the ability of where to put it."
Reaching the final at 18-1, it was Murphy’s turn to pitch.
"I started the first four innings and then Nicole came in," Murphy remembered. "It was a heartbreaking loss. We couldn’t do anything when we reached the final. Both the baseball and softball teams lost by the same score."
BFA won the title, 8-4, but the 18 wins were the most in school history and put Mount Anthony softball back on the map.
"They started the (Bennington) Missy (youth) program when I was in fifth grade, so all the girls on that team had played together since then," Murphy said. "Most of us played on the travel teams during the summer too. We always trusted each other, what the others were doing."
Woodard said it was the first time they had played consistently even during the off-season.
"The whole program switched at that time, really turned it around," said Woodard, who stepped down after the 2003 season. "Becky was a big part of that."
After graduation from MAU, Murphy was ready to go to college -- at the University of Vermont.
"I had never heard of Case before, I had only seen the campus in a pamphlet," she said. "One of my teammates, Kate Winter, got me interested because she was going there. The softball team was brand new and I thought it would be a good fit."
So instead of heading to Burlington, Murphy traveled nine hours west to play softball for a school that had started offering the sport the season before.
"Everything just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Murphy said. "If I went to UVM, it was Division I softball. I might not have played."
She became an integral part of the Case team, pitching every inning (178) as a sophomore. By the time her career ended, her record was 40-15 with a 2.49 ERA in nearly 400 innings.
She led the Spartans to three straight University Athletic Association titles and was the 1999 UAA Most Valuable Player.
"I don’t like to sit on the sidelines, so I couldn’t have it any other way," she said.
But Murphy ended up on the sidelines, not playing as a senior. Changes in the coaching staff became too much to deal with and she decided to leave the team to focus on school.
"I knew I would have to apply for a masters," said Murphy, who works as a dietician at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. "And (with the changes) it wasn’t fun anymore. We didn’t see eye-to-eye."
Fast-forward 10 years. Murphy, who is married and has two young sons, learned about the Hall of Fame nomination in January.
"One of my teammates was on the committee and my coach nominated me," Murphy said. "I got a call from the athletic director. I was surprised. Softball hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition at Case."
And all this for a player who just wanted to play -- didn’t matter where.
"I’m glad I made the switch (to pitching)," Murphy said.
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