TIFFIN — Perkins left-hander Braun Miller showed Keystone why he will be pitching for Ohio State in the future.
The 6-foot-4 junior dominated the Wildcats on Thursday in a 10-0 Division II regional semifinal win at Tiffin University’s Heminger Field, allowing just one hit while striking out 14 of the 20 batters he faced.
Aaron Brodnik had the lone hit for the ’Cats, a fifth-inning single that glanced off the glove of second baseman Kyle Lewis.
Miller used a variety of fastballs, curves and change-ups to take control from the outset. He struck out the side in the first three innings.
“He was fantastic,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said. “I got to see him throw a couple innings before, and he was even better than I thought. He’s the best pitcher we saw all year and hats off to Perkins. They beat us in every facet of the game.
“He did a great job of hitting his spots. He owned us for the first couple of times through. We finally got a couple of breaks when Brodnik got that hit, but we weren’t able to capitalize.”
The Wildcats (24-6) were playing with heavy hearts, mourning classmate Logan Stiner, a senior and wrestler who died earlier this week.
Kendle Stiner, his cousin and Thursday’s starting pitcher, said thoughts of Logan were never far away for anyone on the team.
“We made it to a regional game and played as hard as we could,” he said. “We did it for Logan and I know he would be happy with the effort we gave. We laid it out on the line, but offensively we just didn’t have it.
“Defensively you have to make the routine plays routine. I just tried to go out there and throw strikes and let my defense do its work. Stuff happens. You have to battle through it. We just didn’t get it done.”
Fitzgerald admitted it was a difficult week for the entire Keystone community. He said the team tried to put their grief out of mind for a moment through preparation for the game.
“They all wanted to be here,” he said. “We practiced yesterday because they felt like we had to get back out there and practice. The bus ride was a little quiet but I think everyone felt loose. Maybe we were a little emotionally tired but life gets in the way of games sometimes. We just got beat today.”
Miller had a lot to do with that, throwing 62 of 89 pitches for strikes. He was more than happy to see the umpire had a generous outside corner for both teams — calling strikes on pitches that were a little off the outside corner.
“If he’s giving it to you, I’m going there every time,” Miller said. “If you’re getting the call, why not?”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when the Pirates pushed a pair of runs across on an RBI single from Thane Walton and a throwing error on a possible double-play ball by shortstop Collin Fitzgerald.
The Pirates (26-5) added a pair in the fourth, three in the fifth and three in the sixth to win in six innings.
The Pirates played offense, too, pounding out 12 hits, including two each from Walton, Tyler Puckerin, Miller and Tanner Trent.
“One through nine, all in the batter’s box did things for us today,” said Perkins coach Ray Neill, whose team will face Bryan in the regional final today. “It’s not necessarily all those guys every day but we have eight seniors out there and you feel good every time one of them is in the batter’s box.
“We beat a good team today and beat a great pitcher. I’m very, very proud of our guys.”
Stiner said the team did everything it could.
“It was going to be rough no matter what,” he said. “We were hoping luck, Logan and God would help us through it. … We went out there and tried. We did the best we could. I know we got run-ruled, but that doesn’t show what this team is about. Under different circumstances I guarantee this would have been a different game but we did everything we could.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.