With the win, the Pirates (25-5) — ranked No. 10 in the state coaches poll — advance to today’s regional championship vs. Bryan (21-8) at 5 p.m. back at Tiffin University’s Heminger Field.
In Thursday’s win, Miller was inches away from a no-hitter, striking out 14 of the 18 outs recorded by the No. 7-ranked Wildcats (25-6). Miller allowed just one hit in the 86-pitch complete-game shutout.
“That’s how I like it … not too much work on us,” Irby said of Miller’s performance. “No pressure on us, we just had to score a run or two and keep it going”
It was clear from the outset it was going to be a special day for Miller, an Ohio State recruit. The first nine outs recorded were all via the strikeout through three innings, with a walk in the second inning as the only blemish.
When he walked the leadoff batter in the fourth, two batters later he induced an inning-ending double play.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable out there, always throwing strike,” Miller said. “As soon as I get ahead, I get in a rhythm and try to keep the other team down, and get our momentum going. It just builds up the team overall.
“It’s not just me, we’re getting after it, getting base hits, it’s a team job,” he added. “I didn’t expect it. I just came out throwing andgoing after it the best I could with a competitive attitude”
Offensively, the Pirates finally put a dent in the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Miller led off the inning with a single, and Tanner Trent laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt attempt, and ended up reaching base himself in the process. Leadoff hitter Devin Dubbert then sacrifice bunted both Miller and Trent to second and third, and an RBI single by Thane Walton brought in Miller for a 1-0 lead.
Luke Fraley then appeared to ground out, but the throw to first base went wide, and Trent came around to score to make it a 2-0 game.
Two more runs in the bottom of the fourth extended the lead to 4-0. Connor Mapus singled and Irby sacrificed him to second. Miller then lifted a deep fly ball down the left field line that the Keystone left-fielder misjudged, and it dropped in for an RBI double and a 3-0 lead.
Trent then followed with an RBI groundout to bring in another run to make it 4-0.
The Pirates broke it open with three runs in the bottom frame of the fifth. Walton singled, and Kyle Lewis reached on an infield hit, then proceeded to steal second for runners at second and third with one out.
Walton then scored on a passed ball, and after Irby drew a walk, Tyler Puckrin delivered the big blow with a two-run RBI single to right-center that made it 7-0.
That was more than enough for Miller on the mound, who dominated the game from start to finish.
The only Keystone hit came in the top of the fifth, Aaron Brodnik connected for a single just out of the reach of Lewis’ glove at second base to break up the no-hit attempt by Miller.
“There are times we have to ask him to find another gear, and today he brought it right from the beginning” Perkins coach Ray Neill said of Miller. “It was fun sitting and watching him. He was great, and Puckrin was good behind the plate again. Not that we had that many chances behind him, but I thought defensively when we needed to make a play, we did.
“One through nine in the batter’s box all did something for us today” he added. “It’s not necessarily all those guys every day, but we got eight seniors who go out there, and you just feel good when it’s their turn to hit”
Perkins ended the game three outs early with three more runs in the bottom of the sixth — capped by Irby ending the game with an RBI single for the 10-run lead via the mercy rule.
“It was pretty exciting. When I got up to bat, I thought I’d be able to get a hit there and was ready for it” Irby said. “It’s really exciting, I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t think we’d come this far, but it is what is and we’re here, riding the wave”
Today will mark the fourth regional championship game for the Pirates, and each of the previous three trips have been one-run games.
Perkins fell 9-8 to Hamilton Twp. in 2003, lost 4-3 to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in 2006, and beat Jesuit the next season in 2007 to reach state, 8-7.
The winer of today’s game advances to the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.
“You don’t ever expect to get here, you have to be as lucky as you are good” Neill said. “ I don’t know what will happen (today), but we’re having fun in our dugout. We’re just playing to have fun. I’ve yelled and demanded what I needed all year, and right now they deserve to go have fun.
“I’m sitting back watching just like everyone else,” he added. “We’ve got 10 seniors, and three or four of them have waited their turn for this year. They’ve taken advantage of that and gotten it done”
Keystone 000 000 — 0 1 2
Perkins 002 233 — 10 11 0
WP: Braun Miller; LP: Kendle Stiner
2B: (P) Miller