Chris Miller might like to have fun off the diamond, but when he takes to the mound he is all business and showed it in a stellar performance Friday night in the Ooltewah Invitational at Bradley Central.
The Wildcats struck first in the top of the third with two unearned runs after NO. 15 led off with a single. Polk was helped by a walk and error on a fly ball.
“We had kind of a sloppy inning defensively in the first and gave up a couple of runs. That is really my main concern. I felt like Chris (Miller) did good job on the mound pounding the (strike) zone and challenging hitters. I was proud of his performance.
“My only concern was that one inning of routine stuff that can’t go on. All these games are practice games for what goes on in May. I keep telling them we can’t have stuff like that.”
Miller went the distance for the Bears striking out seven Wildcats and giving up no earned runs. The transfer from Kentucky walked only two and scattered five hits.
“He is a pretty unique kids in that typical left handed style, he’s a little bit out there at times. But when he gets on the mound he is a fierce competitor, he will challenge the zone. He’s nice to have around. I was proud of him and the effort,” Damas said of his winning pitcher.
“All I am asking of him and the (pitching) staff is challenge hitters, hit by pitch and eliminate a lot of free stuff.”
The Bears recovered one run in the bottom of the first after loading the bases on singles by NO. 29 and NO. 7. NO. 29 scored on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to left by No. 19 to make it a 2-1 game.
The Wildcats mounted a minor threat in the fourth after NO. 18 led off with a single and wound up at third on an errant throw to first. But, Miller fanned two and got a strikeout to leave No. 18 stranded.
The Bears used indecision in the field to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. NO. 27 trotted to first after being hit by a pitch and later scored on a pick-off throw to second. NO. 14 also made it to first by virtue of being thumped and scored on a NO. 14 single giving the Bears a 3-2 lead.
Aldridge ran in to more trouble in the lower half of the fifth. The young righty loaded the bases after hitting two Bears and walking another to load the bases. No. 38 picked up an RBI with a single to center and NO. 29 brought a run home with in a fielder’s choice to put Bradley on top 5-2.
“We got waxed by McCallie and Ooltewah to say the least,” said Wildcats coach Michael Carter of Polk County’s rough tournament weekend. “Getting a win today against Boyd-Buchanan was a must to keep the weekend from being a total wash. We competed (against Bradley) for seven innings. That’s what we’ve got to do. If we can learn to compete for seven innings, we are going to win some games.
“We’ve got guys laying out for balls in the seventh inning and we’ve got guys pitching deep into the game. You want to win, but competing is what our guys need to learn to do especially our young guys. And they did compete. I can live with that competitiveness, we just need to score a few more runs. But, they are learning to compete. We’ve got some young guys who have never really played their positions. But, when they are laying out for balls and getting after it that’s what we want out of them. We want guys to come off the field dirty after giving a good effort. I was pleased with the effort not necessarily pleased with the outcome.”
From there, Polk went quietly in the sixth after a one hit inning. Carter sent freshman hurler Reno Wimberley to the mound for the Wildcats in the bottom of the sixth. The young righty allowed two base runners after two outs on a hit batter and Maynard single before getting a fly to second to close out the inning.
The Bears sat the Wildcats down in order in the top of the seventh to lock up the win.
“Offensively we did enough. We hit a lot of balls hard but right at people. We had a pretty good approach at the plate. We did enough to scrap a couple of runs.” Adams said afterward. “We have played Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and it is starting to show a little bit on them. But, it’s good to come out on top and take care of business.”
Another cold, wet, sunless day greeted Bradley Central on the final day of the Bears’ appearance in the Ooltewah Invitational baseball tournament at the Toby McKenzie Baseball Complex at BCHS.
The 8-0 loss to the Franklin Rebels was the Bears’ fifth straight game in as many days and final game of the tournament. Head coach Travis Adams earlier in the week decided to forego the final run of the tournament in order to get his team on the road to Cocoa Beach, Fla., for more tournament baseball.
“We kind of played from behind the whole game. We had a couple of chances, not many, to score some runs, but they kept us in check. That’s what happens when you play good teams, you can’t give them anything and you have to take advantage of every opportunity,” said Bears’ coach Travis Adams.
With warm weather and sunny beaches dancing in their heads, the Bears fell behind the Rebels in the top of the first. Starting pitcher Jacob Fowler gave up three singles and a Bradley throwing error put the Bears in a 3-0 hole.
Fowler settled down in the second striking out the side. The Bears got two-out singles from NO. 27 and NO. 29 in the lower half of the inning, but both were left stranded after a ground ball ended the mini rally.
Franklin added more in the third scoring one run on a triple to deep right-center field an another on a wild pitch. The Rebels made it a 6-0 game with their fifth hit of the game before Fowler stopped the run with a third-out strikeout.
The Bears missed a chance in their half of the third when back-to-back singles by NO. 7 and NO. 5 produced no runs.
Bradley reliever Jacob Maynard was greeted in the top of the fourth with a line shot back to the box. The senior righty snagged the rocket for the first out of inning and got out No. 2 on a ground ball to first. A call strike three sent the Rebels back to the field.
Fowler gave up six runs, four earned, on five hits, fanned six and walked one.
Maynard lasted less than two innings after walking one and hitting one to open the fifth. He was lifted by Adams in favor of Seth Lee. The junior right hander gave up an RBI single on a hit and run that put the Rebels up 7-0. Franklin added one more before the third out.
Lee helped his own cause with a two-out single just inside the bag at third in bottom of the sixth but was left on base after a warning track third-out fly to left by NO. 11.
Lee ended his afternoon with one strikeout while giving up two hits.
NO. 27 opened the final frame for the Bears with a solid single to right. The next batter, NO. 38, worked the Rebels for a walk and a fielder’s choice put Bears on first and third with one out. After a walk that loaded the bases, the Rebels put an end to the Bear’s threat to break up the shutout with a soft fly ball to second to end the game.
“It seems like we’ve played every day since Tuesday and it showed. I felt like it was showing up last night and we were back up here this morning going again,” said Adams. “You just have to be mentally strong, but that’s part of it, that’s baseball.”
BEARS 3, WILDCATS 2
Polk County 002 000 0 — 2 5 1
Bradley Central 001 220 x — 5 7 3
WP: Chris Miller (2-0). LP: Andrew Aldridge. 2B: Nolan Bishop (PC); Jacob Barnes (BC). Other Highlights: Brently White 2-4 (BC). Records: Polk County 4-4; Bradley Central 8-2.
REBELS 8, BEARS 0
Franklin 303 020 0 — 8 6 0
Bradley Central 000 000 0 — 0 7 2
WP: Cullin Edwards. LP: Jacob Fowler. 3B: Austin McPheel (F). 2B: Auastin Winstead (F). Other Highlights: McPheel 2-3, Graham Warren 3-3 (F); Ryan Blair 2-3 (BC). Records: Bradley Central 8-3.