The underdog mentality is all too familiar to the Murray State Thoroughbreds.
After a disappointing 21-33 season and a 10th place finish in the OVC, the ’Breds are already underdogs coming into a new season.
Perhaps it’s fitting then, for senior pitcher Cameron Finch to anchor Murray State’s pitching staff. Finch has also been labeled an underdog nearly all his life, and enters the season as the ’Breds No. 1 starter.
Finch, a Collierville, Tenn., native, played second base and shortstop throughout his early baseball career. When it was time to look into college baseball, however, Finch was told he lacked the offensive skills to hit at the next level.
Those words didn’t stop Finch from pursuing his dream of playing college baseball. He took up pitching, despite standing at an even 6 feet tall.
Throughout his junior year at Collierville High School, Finch gradually transitioned from the batters’ box to the pitching mound. At the end of the season, Finch made his first few starts at the state tournament, and prepared to pitch full time in his senior season.
After his junior season, Finch spent the summer perfecting his pitches – a time he said propelled him into his eventual career at Murray State.
“That following summer was when I really took off,” Finch said. “That’s when I started pitching as a starter and then I had a really good senior year and became the team’s No. 1 starter.”
Collierville High School’s ace went 9-1 and posted a 1.19 ERA while tossing eight complete games and two no-hitters. He led the Dragons to a 37-8 record and a third-place finish in the state.
Despite the eye-popping numbers, Finch received little interest out of high school.
“I had good numbers but I didn’t get a ton of looks out of high school because I didn’t throw hard and I wasn’t really big,” Finch said. “I just kind of flew under the radar.”
Murray State Head Coach Rob McDonald took notice, however, after speaking with Finch’s high school coach.
Despite being undersized and admitting his skills might not be the best on the team, Finch said he knew he had the opportunity to prove himself yet again.
“When people see me throw, they don’t think I really have anything special,” Finch said. “I take pride in the fact that I might not have the best stuff but I can still compete really well and I can get people out. I don’t just blow the ball by guys, I actually have to pitch.”
After making several bullpen appearances and a handful of starts as an underclassmen, Finch took a big step last season as a junior.
He began the season as the team’s No. 2 starter, but transitioned into the top spot and posted a 5-4 record and a 4.32 ERA.
The highlight of the season came March 22 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Finch cemented his place in Murray State baseball history by throwing the program’s first ever nine-inning no-hitter.
The game was moved up because of rain, so the team left that morning for the game and arrived several hours before warmups were scheduled to start. The team had to sit on the bus, which Finch said interfered with his normal routine.
Once the game began, however, Finch was locked in, striking out five batters en route to the 1-0 victory.
“I really wasn’t doing anything special,” Finch said. “I was just getting a lot of ground ball outs at the beginning of the game, which is pretty normal. I knew the whole time I hadn’t given up a hit, but after the sixth inning was when I really started realizing I could actually do this. It was fun. It definitely ranks as the top moment of my career.”
Finch now enters 2014 looking to lead the ’Breds to their first OVC Tournament berth since 2010.
Despite the low expectations – the team was picked to finish 10th of 11 teams – from preseason voters, Finch and the ’Breds know what it’s like to be considered underdogs, and they’re not buying it.
“As a team we want to get back to the tournament,” Finch said. “I want to give my team a chance to win every single time I go out there to take the mound.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer