Nathan Murrell, one of three seniors that helped Boyd-Buchanan reach the 2014 TSSAA Class A state baseball tournament last month, said Wednesday he will sign a scholarship to continue his career at Lee University in Cleveland.
Murrell batted .427 this season, including going 4-for-11 (.364) with four RBIs in three state tournament games in Murfreesboro during the recent TSSAA Spring Fling. After beating Forrest in the tourney opener, the Bucs lost to Jackson Christian – the eventual state champion – and Goodpasture.
During his four-year career at Boyd-Buchanan, Murrell started out as a catcher and then switched to primarily playing second base and third base for coach Josh Rider.
Murrell’s job behind the plate lasted all of three weeks in his rookie season, but the Flames, who finished second in the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series last month, will probably start the Bucs’ versatile player behind the plate, with the options of playing him at first base and third base.
“They said I would be catching and playing first base, with some reps at third,” Murrell, 18, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know if I’ll stay at catcher. I’ll just have to see how it plays out. I liked catching for those three weeks my freshman season before moving to third.
“The coaches at Lee told me they need a third and maybe fourth catcher next season. So, me and another guy will probably fill in there.”
Murrell chose the Flames, who compete in the Gulf South Conference, chose the Flames over Morehead State, Columbia State, Roane State and Georgia Highlands.
The 18-year-old Murrell visited Lee on Tuesday and decided to join the Flames.
“I like the campus and their baseball program,” Murrell said. “We haven’t set a time for signing, but I would think it will be in the next week or so.”
Murrell had a pro day workout at Georgia Highlands on Monday and had intended to visit Morehead State and work out at Columbia State next week, but those plans were cancelled after he made his decision to sign with coach Mark Brew’s Flames.
Murrell was a freshman on Rider’s first squad as head coach, so he knows the potential for his infield stalwart.
“Nate has tons of potential because he can already hit at a college level,” Rider said. “Offensively, he brings a lot to the table. Defensively, he has good hands and I know he’ll go up there and work hard. They told him he would have an opportunity to earn playing time and that’s all you can ask for at a baseball program like Lee.”
Brew just completed his eighth season as the Flames’ head coach with a runner-up finish to Fresno Pacific in the NCCAA World Series at Mason, Ohio. Lee finished 37-18 after the 5-1 loss to Fresno in the championship game.
Brew’s first seven teams made appearances in the NAIA World Series and included runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2010 and third in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Flames won 50-plus games in each of Brew’s first seven seasons before moving into NCAA Division II and Gulf South Conference competition.
“Nate turned into a great leader this year,” Rider said. “He always led by example because he had other guys ahead of him more vocal. Nate was more vocal this year and that really helped our team.”
Murrell, who began playing baseball at the age of 5, enrolled at Boyd-Buchanan in the first grade and played football through middle school before concentrating on just baseball throughout his high school career.
As a senior, Murrell helped the Bucs post a school-record 29 wins with a 16-game winning streak – another school mark – along the way. He wound up with 53 hits, second on the team’s all-time single-season record list. His 52 RBIs in a season is a record.
Murrell will take home some serious postseason hardware at the Bucs’ baseball banquet on Monday night. He shares Co-Most Valuable Player honors with Jim Cardwell and the Co-Offensive Player of the Year with Cade Evans.
Now, Murrell will try his diamond skills at a high profile Division II program.
“I’m excited to play at the next level,” he said.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)