WEST ALEXANDRIA — With a dominant pitching performance and timely hitting, Twin Valley South’s baseball team is heading back to the district semifinals for the first time since the 2016 season.
Senior Gage Miller retired the first 14 batters he faced, and the Panthers used a five-run fourth inning to break open a close game to beat visiting Franklin-Monroe 8-2 in a Division IV sectional final Wednesday, May 17.
“We knew coming into this game Gage Miller was going to be on the bump for us. He’s a remarkable pitcher. He’s a remarkable athlete. He’s our senior. He’s one of our leaders. He’s somebody that it’s going to be almost impossible to replace him next season,” South coach MJ Randolph said. “He went out there and just pitched a heck of a game and the defense had his back all the way through.”
Miller allowed just four hits and struck out 10 to earn the win over a team which beat South 10-5 on May 4.
The No. 3 seed Panthers (9-11) will host No. 4 Troy Christian Tuesday, May 23 in the district semifinal. The winner advances to the district final on Wednesday, May 24, a game South hasn’t played in since the 2015 season.
South scored a run in the third to take a 1-0 lead. Cais Kingsley doubled then stole third and scored on an F-M error.
In the fourth, the Panthers broke the game open with five runs.
Jace Thuma singled to lead off the inning. After the next two batters were retired, South strung together five straight hits. Brayden Burkett doubled, scoring Thuma. Miller followed with a double to score Burkett for a 3-0 lead. Kingsley added a single to score Miller and make it 4-0. Kasey Blair doubled home Kingsley and Griffin Roell singled to score Blair to make it 6-0.
South added two more runs in the fifth for an 8-0 lead.
“Opening a game up like that just gives us all the confidence in the world and Gage is one of those guys where he can be getting shelled or he can be going out there and pitching a no hitter and it’s the same attitude every single time,” Randolph said. “It does a lot for the entire team and for the entire program when we see our guys go up there and step up to the plate and be aggressive in the box and are able to contribute and when we do that, I mean there’s it’s really hard to beat us.”
Randolph said everything went right for his team.
“Something that we’ve been talking about all season long is playing Twin Valley South baseball and what that means to us and tonight, I think we played Twin Valley South baseball, doing the little things right, helping our pitchers out, getting the sticks out when we need it,” he said. “And tonight, I think everything kind of just came together for us. I think the boys went out there and gave a really good performance.”
Now the Panthers are heading where no player in the current roster has been.
“It has been a few years. Coming into the season we had some lofty goals and some high expectations and we kind of came together as a squad and as a program and said, you know what, we have to have high standards, if we’re going to do that,” Randolph said. “It’s been a process and building those standards up, but we’ve been able to do it one day at a time, one pitch at a time. I think we’re finally in a spot now where we’re proud of playing Twin Valley South baseball and we’re proud of our community and we just want to go out there and do our best every single day.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.