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More elbow troubles for Mudcats' Murtha

Parkston Mudcats pitcher Tom Murtha throws the ball during the team’s first-round game at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament Friday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. (Republic file photo)

After being named a 2014 South Dakota amateur baseball comeback player of the year, Tom Murtha finds himself back in an all-too-familiar situation.

The left-handed pitcher for the Parkston Mudcats left a scrimmage at the University of Sioux Falls in 2009 due to an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing arm, and on Friday, another injury to his UCL forced an early departure from the mound. This time the injury came in a first-round matchup of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament.

"It was kind of like when you crack your back, but there were a couple of pops in my elbow," Murtha said. "I took one courtesy throw, but there wasn't any way I could have continued."

Murtha went in to have a doctor examine his arm on Monday and confirmed that it was an injury to his UCL.

In 2009, an MRI revealed a partial tear in Murtha's UCL. This time around, Murtha isn't sure if he will be going in to get a closer look at the injury.

"We won't know if it's a tear or not without an MRI," he said. "It will probably be a week or two before I decide whether or not I want to do an MRI, they aren't cheap.

"I'm just hoping the pain just starts to go away and if it's not a tear, I could slowly start throwing again."

After Murtha tore his UCL in 2009 he underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2010. He returned to baseball in 2012 and made his way back on to the mound as a pitcher just before the district tournament that year.

"The first surgery really made me appreciate the game, and I'm just happy that I got to pitch a couple of summers after the surgery and the rehab," he said.

As for his team, the Mudcats continue their quest for a state title at 6 p.m. today in Mitchell without Murtha.

"It's going to hurt to lose a quality pitcher like Tom," Parkston coach Dave Roth said. "I just hope he'll be all right for the future."

Roth added that without Murtha, Brady Nolz may be asked to throw more innings if the team makes a run at the title. Trevor Kuiper and Luke Tiesler are expected to fill the void left by Murtha's injury.

Nolz replaced Murtha in Friday's win against Redfield Dairy Queen and is expected to be the starting pitcher for the Mudcats in tonight's contest.

Alexandria pitcher Tyson Gau was also named a comeback player of the year. Gau underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2012 and has been back with the Angels since the 2013 season.