MENTOR—New Philadelphia junior pitcher Julia Miller was as good as advertised—maybe even better—as she fanned 17 on the way to a 1-0 win over Riverside in a Division I district semifinal at Mentor High School on Monday.
“Julia Miller is the real deal,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross. “I give that kid all the credit in the world. I think 17 strikeouts today and we had one hit. We drew a few walks on her but she’s the best pitcher I’ve seen. She’s great.”
Miller’s devastating rise ball coupled with her ability to locate her pitches and change speeds kept Riverside’s hitters from doing what they do best.
The first five Riverside batters of the game struck out on just 20 pitches. Maren Kelly finally put a ball in play to make the final out of the second inning.
Molly Binkiewicz drew a leadoff walk in the third and Katie Ross sacrificed her to second, but Miller needed just six strikes to end the Beaver threat with a pair of strikeouts.
“Her speed with her rise was good,” Ross said. “She had us thinking rise and she was jamming us inside. She mixed up her speeds well. I think she’s fantastic.”
It wasn’t until the Beavers had two outs in the bottom of the sixth that Emma Kovalchuk broke up Miller’s no-hit bid. Miller struck out the next batter to end the inning.
The Quakers finally gave Miller the run support she needed in the top of the seventh.
Grace Fisher struck out the first batter of the inning but an error put a runner at third with just one out. Brittany Finton then fouled off five two-strike pitches before singling to left field for the game’s only run.
Emily Lamos drew a leadoff walk in the bottom half of the inning and pinch-runner Kayla Bobeczko moved to second on a passed ball.
Senior Molly Binkiewicz stepped to the plate with two outs and a chance to score the game-tying run. She hit a rope down the third-base line but the defender was there to make the play and end the game.
“It was fun to go down swinging with these girls,” Ross said. “That’s what I told them when we came in, I go, ‘Listen, we’ve got one hit this game but let’s go down swinging and see what we can do.’ To get the runner on second and have a senior up there to have that chance, she hit it hard but the third baseman made a nice play on it to throw her out. If you want to go down, go down like that.”
Fisher took the hard-luck loss.
She allowed one unearned run on just two hits and fanned 10.
“I’ll put Grace up against anybody,” Ross said. “She was equally as fantastic. When you get a pitcher’s duel like that, a 1-0 game usually happens.”
Riverside dropped to 21-3 on the year and while the Beavers’ postseason run came to an end, they still have a lot to play for this week.
A two-game series with Madison will decide the Western Reserve Conference title.
Riverside needs to win both to split the title with Chardon.
“We haven’t really talked about the conference very much because that really hasn’t been our goal,” Ross said. “We’re one game at a time but the reality is now it’s our next game, that’s what it’s for. I look forward to seeing how we do tomorrow. I think our girls will be ready. I thought they were ready today and they battled their hearts out.”
The Beavers host the Blue Streaks on Tuesday then travel to Madison on Thursday.