By dan hiner
Baird Brothers 18-U pitcher Garrett Miller nearly made history in his final start at Bob Cene Park on Thursday.
The Peters Township, Pa., native came two outs away from throwing a perfect game in an 8-0 win over Troy Post 43 Legends on the first day of the NABF World Series.
Miller faced the minimum until Keaton Mohler hit a one-out, first-pitch single to left field in the top of the seventh inning. The ball flew just over the head of shortstop Braeden O’Shaughnessy.
“It was nerve-wracking and my teammates made some great plays throughout the game to make that possible,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, I’m just happy we won.”
While most pitchers say they were too focused on the game, Miller said he was aware he had a no-hitter after looking at the scoreboard midway through the game. He didn’t know it was a perfect game.
“I knew it was a no-hitter. I didn’t know it was a perfect game until the very, very end,” Miller said.
The attempt at a perfect game could have been ended in the fifth if not for a great play by Baird third baseman Steve D’Eusanio.
Troy’s Jacob Duncan hit a leadoff line drive up the middle. The ball hit Miller’s right ankle and bounced in front of the cut of the grass at third base. D’Eusanio picked up the ball on the run and threw to first to beat Duncan by half a step.
“That was incredible,” Miller said. “[D’Eusanio] made a hell of a play.”
Miller was aggressive with his fastball and worked ahead in most of his at-bats. He finished with seven strikeouts and only threw more than five pitches to four batters.
“Garrett throws strikes,” Baird Brothers head coach Don Pletcher said. “I think for the year ... a 0.70 ERA, 4-0, so we’ve come to expect it from him.
“He throws strikes and he’s lethal enough, not overpowering, but he picks his spots.”
But the right-hander didn’t need to be perfect to get the win.
Matt Gibson, Travis Perry, Coleman Stauffer, Jacob McCaskey and D’Eusanio each drove in a run for Baird. O’Shaughnessy and Gibson had two hits apiece.
Baird scored one run in each of the first two innings before breaking things open in the third.
Leading 2-0, Gibson hit a one-out triple to left-center field. He scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat. Perry, a Youngstown State commit, hit a solo home run over the left-field fence to increase the lead to 4-0 later in the inning.
“Ultimately, we put the ball in play,” Pletcher said. “We’re fast, we hit the bases hard and I think that caused a little bit of a problem — a little base hit turned into two, [Dylan Swarmer] guy got on base on strike three. We put pressure and got him around the base with no hits and then obviously Travis with the big bomb there. That helps.”
One inning later, McCaskey hit an RBI triple, Stauffer hit a sacrifice fly and Gibson drove in a run with a double. Fans stopped worrying about the score after the fourth inning.
The field became silent and no one along the first base dugout — players, coaches or fans included — made a sound while Miller was on the mound until Mohler’s single.
“Everybody knows it, you don’t want to call it out,” Pletcher said. “It’s great. It’s his last game here at Cene since he went a whole game tonight. Maybe he’ll come back Sunday for an inning.
“Would have been one heck of a way to end his career.”