Pa­tience pays off for Miller

Se­nior lefty has be­come staff ace, leads Ex­plor­ers to PCL ti­tle

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By Andrew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

EAST WHITELANDS » The say­ing goes that good things come to those who wait.

Joe Miller waited his turn to claim a top role in La Salle’s pitch­ing ro­ta­tion, spend­ing two years on JV and a ju­nior year as a spot starter and re­liever. This year, the lefty as­cended to staff ace and made sure all that wait­ing was worth it.

Satur­day, Miller pitched a gem as he helped lead the Ex­plor­ers to their first PCL base­ball ti­tle since 2013 by strik­ing out eight and al­low­ing just three hits in a 100, five in­ning win against Arch­bishop Car­roll.

“I was re­ally hun­gry, I re­ally wanted to start last year,” Miller, a Hatboro res­i­dent, said. “I had a cou­ple chances in non­league games and did pretty well then got a chance to move into the bullpen for league games. I wasn’t at my best in the bullpen but I think ev­ery year by play­ing a lot through the sum­mer and two years on JV, I was able to get more con­trol of my fast­ball and work on my off speed pitches.

“I’ve been build­ing up to this year.”

Last year, with Kade Jones and Zach Moret­ski an­chor­ing the top of the lineup, La Salle had two tested pitch­ers to han­dle the grind of PCL play so Miller’s in­nings were lim­ited. While his com­pet­i­tive fired burned, Miller opted to use it to im­prove him­self know­ing those spots would be open this year.

Miller’s taken the ball in nearly ev­ery big game the Ex­plor­ers have had this sea­son and was named a first-team all PCL se­lec­tion. The left-han­der uses pin­point con­trol of his fast­ball, a strong changeup and an oc­ca­sional slider to put in work on the mound and felt those three pitches were on in the PCL

fi­nal.

Af­ter walk­ing Car­roll lead­off man Tyler Ke­hoe, and mak­ing an er­rant pick­off throw that let Ke­hoe take third base, Miller rang up the next two bat­ters look­ing. He walked Jake Kelch­ner with two out and re­sponded by strik­ing out Chris Grill to end the in­ning.

La Salle coach Kyle Wer­man saw a pitcher ready to at­tack a lineup that’s made a lot of pitch­ers pay this sea­son.

“He’s got elec­tric stuff, he’s got some de­cep­tion and he throws hard,” Wer­man said. “If he throws all fast­balls, guys aren’t squar­ing them up very well. When he can show like he did to­day the abil­ity to com­mand the changeup and spin some break­ers, it makes some guys doubt to where they can’t just cheat the fast­ball. It’s why he was good to­day and gave us a chance to win.”

Miller cred­ited his team’s of­fense for all the work its done back­ing him up this sea­son but also talked about how he had to learn to deal with that of­fense. In the bot­tom of the first, La Salle scored seven runs, drag­ging out the frame af­ter Miller ended it with his adren­a­line pump­ing.

There have been plenty of those long in­nings this sea­son where the Ex­plorer hit­ters are work­ing counts, bash­ing hits and scor­ing runs, so Miller had to find ways to stay sharp when it was his time to go back out. On Satur­day, he be­gan the top of the sec­ond by giv­ing up two sin­gles.

The Penn re­cruit ended the in­ning by punch­ing out three straight bat­ters, all on swing­ing third strikes.

“To come in and put up seven runs in the first was crazy, I didn’t ex­pect that at all, es­pe­cially off a guy like (Car­roll ace Jake) Kelch­ner,” Miller said. “As I moved through the year, I got used to these big leads and hav­ing to keep my body ready in the du­gout. It’s some­thing I wasn’t used to and strug­gled with at the begin­ning of the year.”

Miller re­tired Car­roll in or­der in the third and fourth in­nings, then again stranded a pair of run­ners in the fifth in­ning. The se­nior said his con­trol was the dif­fer­ence on Satur­day and he was able to keep his fast­ball and changeup low in the zone.

He didn’t throw a ton of slid­ers, but Miller noted be­ing able to get that pitch in against some of Car­roll’s tough left-handed hit­ters also got some key strikes.

“That’s the tough­ness he brings,” Wer­man said. “You’re go­ing to have lapses at the high school level and re­ally any level and it’s about how you fight and re­spond and I thought that’s what he did well. If he lost the zone or they stringed a cou­ple hits to­gether, he stayed com­posed.”

La Salle’s of­fense has also taken plenty of mo­men­tum from the big outs Miller has got­ten all sea­son. Short­stop Eric Marash­eski, the PCL’s De­fen­sive Player of the Year, said it’s been an all-sea­son trend of the south­paw hurler kick­ing off those big in­nings with a mo­men­tumshift­ing pitch or out.

“You never worry when Joe pitches,” Marash­eski said. “If our of­fense isn’t there in the first in­ning or two, we’re con­fi­dent he’s go­ing to shut it down and we’re go­ing to get the runs for him.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s Joe Miller pitched an­other gem in the PCL Cham­pi­onship Game Satur­day.

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