Murray's return provides Cougars timely boost

Al Samuels/Special to The Post and Courier College of Charleston's Brandon Murray

For most achy days of Brandon Murray's six-week forearm rehabilitation, it seemed like the bone-shattering fastball won.

No more senior year.

No more chances to impress scouts going into the 2014 major league draft.

"It was a weird feeling. I wasn't sure I'd make it back before the season was over," said Murray, a College of Charleston left fielder who was hit by a pitch on April 4 at Towson.

But what timing, thanks to a little persistence and a lot of physical therapy. The Cougars got Murray back in the lineup over the weekend and expect their best power hitter to start Thursday in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Wilmington, N.C.

Exactly the kind of high drama you want in a low-level conference tournament.

College of Charleston is the No. 2 seed, but just took two of three games from No. 1 William & Mary.

The Cougars look like the favorite. They have the league's top pitching staff and a motivated middle-of-the-order threat most CAA teams didn't see this season.

"That could equate to maybe that one extra run that we need. Or two," College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee said. "It's great to have Brandon back. Brandon brings a lot of confidence and production to the team, and leadership."

The stakes are high for all. No CAA team is good enough to earn an NCAA tournament at-large invitation.

But you have to wonder what might have been for the Cougars with Murray, a 6-0, 210-pound native Bahamian, in the lineup all season. Murray is batting .270 from the left side and remains the team co-leader (with Brandon Glazer) in home runs with five. Murray has 27 college home runs, seventh on the school's career list.

On defense, he has seven outfield assists, tied for 11th-best in the nation.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent," said Murray, who moved from Nassau to Florida at age 14 and attended Trinity Christian School in Lake Worth. "There are still things that bother me when I try to do them, but I'm good enough to play, and that's all that matters. I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team as a leader and as a senior."

Murray's impact was evident Friday and Saturday in Mount Pleasant. Lee wanted to ease him in slowly Friday after all that time off. He inserted Murray as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning of a tie game against William & Mary.

"I wasn't really thinking about getting an at-bat, just trying to help in any way I could," Murray said. "But the game kept going on and on."

By the time it was over, 23 innings later, Murray had four hits in five at-bats, including a game-tying double in the 20th inning. The Cougars won, 3-2.

Murray went 6-for-12 in the William & Mary series, with two assists despite the recently repaired left arm.

Maybe the big league scouts have seen enough already, on and off the field.

The Murray baseball bloodline includes a grandfather known as a Bahamian baseball legend. His father Bertram played at Kentucky State. His younger brother Byron, a high school junior, has committed to play at Southern Miss.

Character? Murray and women's basketball player Alyssa Frye in March were honored with College of Charleston ExCEL Student-Athlete of the Year awards for dedication to enhancing diversity on campus and in the classroom. Murray has kept busy with charity work at MUSC and has helped raise funds for childhood cancer research.

Murray knows the best thing he can do for his professional future is win.

"We have a great pitching staff, and pitching wins ballgames," Murray said. "If we score some runs, we're going to be in good shape."

That would mean an NCAA tournament bid, plus extra physical therapy and more at-bats with scouts watching.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.