Following a season-opening 3-1 loss to Park Hill in the Metro Leadoff Tournament at Liberty North High School, Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott handed the ball to senior starter Ryan Miller and told him to go out and take care of business.
Miller took the ball, and his coach’s advice, and threw a three innings of no-hit ball that led to a 2-0 victory over Oak Park as he combined with teammate Nick Brandner on a three-hit shutout to help the Wildcats salvage the opening day of the season.
“I talked to Ryan when we took him out of the game and asked him if he’d ever seen ‘Bull Durham,’” quipped McElligott. “I told him, ‘You’re Nuke LaLoosh (the wild but hard-throwing pitcher played by Tim Robbins) – all or nothing.
“Seven strikeouts and seven walks. We were just joking, but he knew what I meant. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced – but he had those four walks. They couldn’t hit him – when he gets control of all his pitches, he’s going to be something.”
After being no-hit for five innings, and scoring just one run on a CJ July RBI single in the opening loss, the Wildcats scored two runs in the first inning of Game 2 against Oak Park starter Dyland Lloyd.
Chris Liggett opened the game with a walk and scored on Trey Ziegenbein’s triple to right field. Ziegenbein then scored on Garrett McGowan’s RBI double and it looked like Lloyd might not make it out of the first inning.
But the lefty managed to regroup and wound up pitching a complete game against the 1-1 Wildcats.
‘Yeah, I thought we’d knock him out and get a lot runs, but he really started pitching well to get out of the first inning and pitched well the rest of the game,” Ziegenbein said. “We needed a win – we didn’t want to start 0-2 – and Ryan and Nick made sure that didn’t happen.”
Miller was unhittable, as no Oak Park batter connected during his three-inning stint.
“I couldn’t control my breaking ball, but I had total command of my fastball, so I pretty much went with my fastball all three innings,” Miller said. “I was disappointed in the walks – especially walking four guys in just three innings.
“But I was happy with not allowing a hit. Then Nick came in and shut them down the rest of the game. It was a good game following our loss in the first game.”
Brandner allowed just three hits, and pitched out of a first and third, with no outs jam in the bottom of the sixth.
With Gage Messhanger on third base and Kyle Campbell on first – after they collected the first base hits of the game for the Northmen – Brandner came up with a big strikeout and groundout to pitch out of the jam.
“It was big to get out of the sixth inning without giving up a run,” said Brandner, who also had two strikeouts and a walk. “Ryan pitched so well, and their guy really pitched well after the first inning. I didn’t want to give up a run because we didn’t want to start the season 0-2.
“It’s a tournament, it’s not a conference game, but they’re all important. And you want to win the first game and we were able to do that today.”