- March 19, 2019
The last time Seabreeze’s Evan Miller pitched at Matanzas High, he tossed a one-hit shutout, losing his no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh inning.
One year later, on Friday, April 7, Miller was back on the Pirates’ mound. This time, the home team scored three runs in the first inning.
The Sandcrabs committed three errors in the inning and Matanzas starting pitcher Ben Apfelbach helped his own cause with a two-run double to left. A wild pitch by Miller put the Pirates up 3-2 with no outs in the bottom of the first.
But before Seabreeze coach Jeff Lemon could wonder if the Matanzas batters were beginning to figure out the side-armer’s perplexing motion, he saw Miller step behind the mound to reset himself, and the coach was reassured.
“That’s his way of mentally staying in the game. After he does that, he bears down,” Lemon said.
Miller got out of the inning with two consecutive strikeouts and a ground-out, and he did not allow a run the rest of the way as the Sandcrabs went on to defeat the Pirates 4-3.
“I think we just weren't into it mentally at the beginning,” Miller said. “I knew our guys would get right back in it.”
Seabreeze (10-9) scored its four runs on two passed balls and two wild pitches.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but you have to win games like this if you want to play later in the season. — JEFF LEMON, Seabreeze coach
The Sandcrabs, who scored two in the first, took the lead for good in the third. After Apfelbach walked the first two batters, left-hander Josh Cope came on and gave up a walk to load the bases. Zach Banks scored from third on a wild pitch to tie the score, and Zane Barron scored his second run on a passed ball to put Seabreeze back on top, 4-3.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but you have to win games like this if you want to play later in the season,” Lemon said.
The Sandcrabs left nine runners on base, including a man on third in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. They left the bases loaded in the sixth.
Matanzas coach Jim Perry said he didn’t realize who was pitching for Seabreeze until he saw Miller warming up. Miller poses problems, Perry said, because every pitch he throws has movement.
“We had the adjustment last year. We communicated it to the players,” Perry said. “You need to hunt the balls up in the strike zone and lay off the low pitches, because his ball sinks and falls out of the zone.”
I was throwing sidearm on flat ground as a joke, and the guy I was throwing to said I was pretty good, so I kept with it ever since. —EVAN MILLER
Miller had an adjustment of his own. After three batters put the ball in play on fastballs in the first inning, Miller began throwing more changeups and sliders early in the count.
“I don’t throw hard enough to get the ball by them,” he said.
But Lemon said the senior’s velocity has picked up this season from about 78 mph to 80 or 82.
“My preparation in the offseason made a difference,” Miller said. “I feel more mobile with my hips.”
Miller said he went to a sidearm motion two years ago.
“I was throwing sidearm on flat ground as a joke, and the guy I was throwing to said I was pretty good, so I kept with it ever since,” he said.
Since then, he began studying sidearm pitchers and how they train.
“I don’t really throw long toss. I’m a Plyo-ball guy,” he said of training with a ball that's heavier than a baseball.
Miller gave up four hits to the Pirates, walked two and struck out seven in seven innings. Apfelbach had three of the Pirates’ hits.
Matanzas had a chance to tie the game in the fifth as Apfelbach hit a one-out bloop single, went to second on a groundout and advanced to third on a wild pitch. But shortstop Mason Boice fielded Braden Russell’s grounder to end the inning.
Matanzas also loaded the bases in the third, but Seabreeze got out of the inning with a 1-2-6 double play.
While the Pirates gave up all four runs on passed balls and wild pitches, they did not commit an error and displayed some outstanding defense. After giving up a leadoff hit to Tommy Hayes in the second, Apfelbach dove off the mound to catch a pop up off a bunt and then doubled up the runner on first.
The next batter, Rustin Hurley, singled to right field but was gunned down at second by Alonso Quintana as Hurley tried to stretch the hit into a double.
“I thought we played pretty darn well,” Perry said. “We needed to get a leadoff guy on (base). That would have changed the dynamic of the game.”
Cope struck out five and allowed five hits and a walk in five shutout innings. All four Seabreeze runs — three were earned — were charged to Apfelbach. Cope lowered his earned run average to 1.68.
“I think this was Josh Cope’s best performance of the year,” Perry said.
The Pirates (5-7) host St. Augustine on Thursday, April 13. Seabreeze will play in the Five Star Conference tournament beginning April 15.