TORONTO – It ended in a devastating loss, but there was high drama along the way to make this was a week of baseball that Buffalo’s Tom Murphy will never forget.
As the starting catcher for Team USA at the Pan Am Games, the West Monroe native and former star player at the University of Buffalo was a key figure in one of the wildest tournaments in the event’s history.
After a disappointing 3-2 record in round-robin play, the U.S. – trying to win its first Pan Am title since 1967 – was forced to beat Canada Friday in the final game of the preliminary round to make the semifinals, with the Canadians undefeated entering that game.
Coming back from an early 1-0 deficit in that game, the Americans rallied to win, 4-1. Then Saturday, down by 5-1 against Cuba heading to the bottom of the seventh inning in the semifinal, they scored four times to tie the game before winning it in the bottom of the ninth.
In the gold medal game Sunday – a rematch with Canada – it was extra-innings heartbreak for Murphy and the Americans. After Team USA scored two in the top of the tenth inning, Canada scored three times in the bottom of the tenth on a throwing error by pitcher David Huff to win, 7-6.
“That was a tough way to lose and it’s never fun to lose and I don’t know, I don’t think I even have any reaction right now,” said the dejected 24-year-old Colorado Rockies prospect, who batted .292 with one home run and four RBIs in the tournament, before going 0 for 5 in the final game.
Murphy added that he was proud of the effort by his team to get to the gold medal game, and he was honored to be part of the squad.
“We kept battling the whole time. We never quit,” he said. “I’m not happy about a silver medal right now but looking back on it I’ll be pretty proud of it. Any time you get to put on a USA jersey and compete for your country it’s about as good as it gets. I’d be happy to be able to do it again and hopefully somewhere down the road again I’ll be able to do it one more time.”