Prep Baseball: West Rowan 1, South Rowan 0: West's Matt Miller outduels South's Matt Miller
By Mike London
LANDIS — The baseball gods had serious fun with this one.
Two Matt Millers, both right-handed senior pitchers, went at it for seven innings at the South Rowan diamond, with heavy rain approaching and with one stray lightning bolt always a threat to bring a halt to the entire proceedings.
West Rowan’s Matt Miller won it 1-0 against South’s Matt Miller, finishing things with a strikeout and a fist-pump. Five minutes after the Falcons won the NPC struggle, the skies opened up, but it was as if Mother Nature held back her full fury until the Falcons’ version of Miller had completed the night that he’d been waiting for since February.
“I guess you can say Matt Miller was good tonight,” said South coach Thad Chrismon, managing a sad smile. “Both of ’em. That about sums it up.”
South’s Matt Miller (3-3) was overpowering. A big, strong guy headed to Wingate, he was on. His fastball exploded. His breaking ball darted. He stuck out 13. He held West to six hits. He still lost.
“I competed hard, but their Matt — he just pitched one heck of a game tonight,” South’s Miller said. “He outplayed us. He beat us.”
It was difficult for the Raiders (9-7, 4-4) to believe that West’s Miller, a four-year varsity guy who entered the year with a dozen career victories, hadn’t won all season.
“Baseball is crazy,” West catcher Michael Pinkston said. “Matt had so much success early in his career, and now he’s just getting the first win of his senior year. But he was on top of everything tonight, and we got him a run. It was 1-0, but we’ll take it.”
West’s Miller was a highwire act, working around seven walks and fanning eight. He operates without an intimidating fastball, but his curveball can be tough to handle.
“He battled all night,” West coach Chad Parker said. “This was the kind of outing we’ve been expecting out of him. We’ve had other guys step up, but it’s still Matt’s staff, and I think tonight he just said, ‘Hey, this one is mine.’ ”
The win was immense for West because it gives the Falcons (7-7, 6-2) a season sweep of the Raiders and almost a sure trip to the playoffs.
Weather permitting, first-place West next will play at second-place East Rowan (5-2) in a matchup of epic proportions on Thursday.
Remarkably for a 1-0 game, there was only one 1-2-3 inning — the West sixth. Both teams left 10 men on base.
“One hit,” South catcher Eric Tyler lamented. “We needed one key hit. We couldn’t get it, but that’s baseball.”
The biggest pitch West’s Miller threw came early. He snapped off a paralyzing curve that struck out Dillon Parker to end the first after South had loaded the bases.
West scratched out its run in the second. Singles by Pinkston and Nick Collins and a walk to No. 9 man Rhett Hellard filled the bases. The run crossed when South’s Miller threw a breaking ball in the dirt that Tyler couldn’t block.
South hit some balls hard. Bubba McLaughlin chased West outfielders deep twice with long drives, and Eric Goldston slashed a rocket in the sixth that leaping West second baseman Bryce Burns snow-coned out of the sky.
“Best defensive game we’ve played in two years,” West’s Parker said.
In the seventh, it was on the shoulders of West’s Miller against the top of South’s lineup. Still nasty, he got Dylan Goodman with a sharp curve for the second out. After he walked Tyler, he engaged in long battle with Parker Hubbard before getting the final out with a sneaky fastball.
“I’m sure he was thinking curveball there, but it was our night,” Miller said. “It was the first time all year that my arm hasn’t hurt. I felt no different in the seventh inning than I did in the first.”