Dick Barcus, the Chula Vista High School baseball coach, has been looking for a solution to his team's recent problems.
Friday, he found one. And this one, he pulled out of center field.
Brian Murphy, the Spartans' center fielder for most of the season, pitched a five-hitter to lead Chula Vista to a 3-0 victory over No. 10-ranked Montgomery in a Metro Conference game at Chula Vista.
Murphy walked three and struck out two as Chula Vista ended a five-game losing streak and improved its record to 5-6 in league and 9-12 overall. The loss was costly for Montgomery (7-4, 14-7), which fell a game behind Sweetwater and Bonita Vista in the league with two games to play.
Chula Vista had once been part of the league race, starting the season 4-1. But Murphy, one of the starting pitchers on whom Barcus had been counting, started to struggle. He was not throwing many strikes, and the ones he was throwing were being hit.
So Barcus moved Murphy out of the starting rotation and put him in center field. He played there for three weeks before Friday.
"He went out there and did what he is capable of," Barcus said. "He got the ball over the plate and kept it down. He let our defense take care of the rest."
Murphy was never really in trouble, especially after Chula Vista scored three times in the fifth inning to take a 3-0 lead.
"Everything was working," he said.
Even his brother and father. Between innings they took turns rubbing down Murphy's arm to keep it loose. It's something they started doing at the beginning of the year.
"There's really no set pattern to it," Murphy said. "Whichever one of them wants to do it gets to do it."
Montgomery pitcher Tim Hayward had no such luxury, but he pitched well. Hayward allowed only five hits, and the three runs off him in the fifth inning were unearned. However, they were enough to beat him.
"We got a few breaks today and Brian pitched an excellent ballgame," Barcus said. "I expected us to be playing more games like this one this season. Montgomery made some mistakes today and it cost them. Mistakes have been what's costing us."
In other Metro Conference action:
Hilltop 2, Mar Vista 1--Steve Gritts snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the third with a two-out, run-scoring single. David Mossman singled and stole second base earlier in the inning to set up the score for Hilltop (4-7, 7-12). Starter Eric Russell pitched a three-hitter to earn the victory. Mar Vista is 3-8 and 7-12-2.
CITY WESTERN LEAGUE University 5, Kearny 0--Pitcher Tom Stilinovich (5-5) went the distance, striking out six and allowing only three hits, to shut out Kearny (7-6, 9-12) at University. In the third inning, Duke Gonzalez knocked in the game-winning run with a single to left for University (7-6, 11-11). Mike Hastings hit a two-run triple in the fifth.
PALOMAR LEAGUE Mount Carmel 7, San Dieguito 2--Mount Carmel pitcher Jim Tejcek (4-0) walked and scored the game-winner in the first inning as the No. 2 Sundevils won at home. Mount Carmel remained undefeated in the Palomar League at 10-0 and is 21-4 overall. San Dieguito fell to 2-9 in league, 6-15-2 overall. The Sundevils scored all their runs in the first four innings, and San Dieguito scored once each in the sixth and seventh innings. Seven players drove in runs for Mount Carmel.
CITY CENTRAL LEAGUE Hoover 12, Crawford 2--Hoover had 16 hits, including three home runs, to rout host Crawford (6-7-1, 10-12-1). Ty Murphy's two-run home run in the third inning was the game-winner. Dan Clifford was 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a homer, and teammate John Roots was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple to lead Hoover (9-5, 12-10). Pitcher Jeff Shepherd (4-2) struck out six and threw a three-hitter for the complete-game victory.
AVOCADO LEAGUE Escondido 3, Oceanside 2--Rick Afenir's triple sparked a two-run rally in the third for Escondido, an inning capped by Gary Larrabee's RBI double to give the Cougars (6-4, 13-11) the victory at home. Larrabee was 2 for 3. Starter Mike Hopkins (2-3) pitched 6 innings to earn the victory. Oceanside is 4-7 and 9-13.
GROSSMONT LEAGUE Santana 14, Helix 9--Tommy Kolinek and Kenny Todd each had four RBIs as league-leading Santana (13-1, 21-2) won at Helix (6-9, 7-15). Terry Mack of Helix and Todd each hit three-run home runs.
Grossmont 7, Valhalla 3--For the second time this season, Grossmont (8-6, 12-11) upset second-place Valhalla (11-3-1, 18-6-1) behind the pitching of Lance Dickson. Grossmont had won at home earlier against Valhalla, 4-1.
Granite Hills 8, Mt. Miguel 3--Kurt Southworth hit two home runs and drove in three as Granite Hills (9-5, 13-9) won at Mt. Miguel (6-7-1, 11-11-1). Dan Nerat hit his fourth home run in six games for the Eagles.