By Pat Dailey (For Ozark Sports Zone.com)
HOLLISTER – The best Matthew Miller can figure, the reason for his uncanny clutch hitting versus Rogersville is because of the respect he has for the Wildcats.
Miller delivered the crushing blow against Rogersville again Monday, hitting a three-run home run in Aurora’s 4-1 Class 4 District 11 semifinal win.
Over the past two seasons, the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter has provided the game-winning RBI against Rogersville four times.
“They always bring out the best in our team,” Miller said. “It’s always a competitive game, so the competitive side in me comes out. They have some great pitchers and I love going against them. They’re a great ball team and you have to be focused every pitch to come out with a ‘W’ against them.”
Miller ripped a 3-1 fast ball off Hollister’s scoreboard in right-center.
“Good things happen when you ahead in the count like that,” Miller said. “I was looking for my pitch and tried to destroy it. I hit it as hard as I can. I barreled it up and it felt amazing.”
“His composure at the plate in this situations is huge,” coach James Hoffman said. “I think his homer might have just started going up by the time it hit the scoreboard.”
Miller’s second-inning blast broke a 1-all tie.
Rogersville put its lead-off hitter on base in four of the first six innings. The Wildcats went up 1-0 on a leadoff triple by Christian Cassanova and an RBI double by Thomas Kane in the first frame.
Winning pitcher Austin Erickson repeatedly worked out of trouble.
“He competes by mixing his pitches up,” Hoffman said. “He knows his job is to disrupt hitters’ timing. He does that well.”
“I tried to throw low and let the infield do work,” Erickson said. “I feel like I got a lot of ground balls with my fast ball and curve ball.”
Hoffman said it’s no coincidence Erickson worked better from the stretch.
“Our guys work from the stretch every single day while doing their dailies,” Hoffman said. “That’s where their important pitches are going to come from.”
With the dirt in front of home plate at Hollister living up to its reputation as being rock-hard and producing high bounces, Aurora third baseman Gage Singer responded with exceptional glove work.
“He made some big-time plays,” Hoffman said. “He’s probably one of the best in the area glove-work wise and can cover some ground. To go along with that, he’s got a cannon.”
“The dirt is pretty hard there, so you’ve just got to hope you get a good hop, field it clean and make a good throw across,” Singer said. “Sometimes, the dirt speeds the ball up when it skips at you and on the high bounces it slows the ball down.”
Singer ranged far to his left to corral a grounder more than once.
“I like going to my left, compared to my backhand because that’s an easier throw for me,” he said.
Rogersville 100 000 0 – 1
Aurora 130 000 x 0 4
WP – Erickson. LP – Kane.