Win No. 582 left Ron Murphy standing alone.
Rio Rancho High School’s longtime head baseball coach on Tuesday became New Mexico’s all-time wins leader after the visiting and undefeated Rams trounced Volcano Vista 21-3 in six innings in a battle for first place in District 1-5A.
“I’m glad the moment is over, so the attention will go off me and onto the kids where it belongs,” Murphy said. “It’s more a relief than anything else. I don’t like having the attention on me.”
Murphy, who will turn 62 later this month, is the only baseball coach Rio Rancho has had since the school opened in 1997. His first season was 1998, and he’s led the Rams to three state championships: 2007, 2009 and 2013.
His career record of 582-211-1 covers 24 seasons at Rio Rancho, and seven more at St. Pius (1991-97, with two state finals appearances).
On Tuesday, he broke the existing record of 581, established by John Gutierrez at Bloomfield and Navajo Prep from 1966-2014.
Gutierrez is now retired. Last week, with Murphy on the verge of tying – and eclipsing – him, Gutierrez told the Journal, “Ron’s a good guy, and it’s great that he’d be the one to break it.”
Rio Rancho (15-0, 4-0 in 1-5A) scored 13 runs in the sixth inning on Tuesday against the Hawks (9-5, 3-1).
“I’ve never had a team that scored that many runs in one inning against another good team,” Murphy said. “We were just on. It was one of those days.”
Stuart Smith pitched all six innings for Rio Rancho. Garrett Rede and Elijah Castañeda hit home runs; the Rams had recorded only one home run all season prior to Tuesday.
When it was over, Murphy had a bucket of ice water dumped over his head. His son Tyler is a senior starter on this year’s team, adding special meaning.
But Murphy said he wouldn’t spend much time reflecting on being the record holder just yet. He was more pleased that the Rams had won a key game and took over first place in district.
“I’m sure when the season is over,” he said, “I’ll contemplate what happened.”
Earlier this year, Murphy was named the national Coach of the Year for the 2019-20 school year as selected by the National Federation of State High School Associations, or NFHS.
Only one other man – Eldorado’s Jim Johns (552) – has achieved more than 500 coaching victories at the varsity level in high school baseball in New Mexico. Johns retired in 2016.
Murphy tied the record last Friday against Cleveland, and was quick to dismiss any dialogue about the record.
But he was forced to confront the significance of his achievement on Tuesday, especially following the game as about 15 of his former players – both from St. Pius and Rio Rancho, he said – were there to congratulate him.
“It was amazing,” Murphy said. “I think that’s when I realized that I broke the record.”