Miller baseball had seen Casey Williams once this season and knew what to expect. Conversely, Greenbrier Christian had not seen Connor Gillispie, but found out quickly what a challenge the Mavericks senior pitcher presents. It was an impressive duel between the two aces and in a game that took 85 minutes to play, an RBI single from Carson Henry in the 4th wound up being the difference as Greenbrier edged Miller 1-0 in the VISAA Division 2 semifinals in Colonial Heights.
“Two of the better pitchers in the state lived up to the expectations,” said Gators coach Gary Lavelle. “I think everyone knew that this was just going to be a well played, low scoring ballgame. I’m sure glad we came out on the winning end of it.”
There were just nine hits between the two teams with Greenbrier getting a slim advantage at 5-4. Williams was a ground ball machine early as he got five of his first six outs on routine plays. Miller picked up their first hits against the Liberty hurler in the top of the third on back-to-back singles from Jeremy Wagner and Will Wagner with one out. However in the next at-bat Williams got a 6-4-3 double play to end the scoring threat.
In the bottom of the fourth Greenbrier got its first hit against Gillispie with a JMU-bound Harry Brown lead off double. A single from Erik Stock followed and after a ground out, the Gators finally broke the scoreless tie with Henry’s RBI single to make it 1-0.
Miller got a lead off single in the sixth from Will Wagner. However, Williams then came up with his second pickoff of the day to thwart the Mavericks. In the seventh Miller saw Tanner Morris reach first after getting hit by a pitch. Ethan Murray then delivered a bunt single. After a pop fly and a fielder’s choice, the Mavericks had runners on the corners with two outs. Carson Atkins then hit a well struck ball to right but just barely in range of the Greenbrier defense to end the game.
Both squads struggled to bunt. The Gators had an inning-ending double play in the second a popular to catcher Johnny Wood who completed the play with a throw to first. Miller returned the favor in the fifth after Gillispie lead off by reaching on an error but could not move into scoring position after a popular to Williams and then a 6-4 fielders choice.
“For us, you’ve got to be able to do the little things,” said Miller choice Billy Wagner. “When you’re not a good hitting team, you better be a good bunting team. That execution sticks out.”
Williams struck out three batters, gave up four hits and one walk to earn the complete game victory.
“He throws a lot of strikes and mixed in his change up,” Wagner said of Williams. “He carries himself well. He throws a bad ball that gets a lot of contact. That’s what he does really well. I tip my hat to him. I thought that was a well pitched game on both sides.”
On the other side of things, Gillispie finished with a complete game as well with four strikeouts to five hits and three walks over six innings.
“VCU has a great guy coming to them,” Wagner said of Gillispie. “He just pounds the strike zone. There aren’t too many times I’ve ever had to pull him off the mound and I never thought about doing it today.”
The loss ends the season for Miller. The Mavericks graduate seven seniors including Gillispie, Wood, Rivers Spence, Jacob Gavin Alexander Respeto, Alex Chan and Jamal Litzenburger.
“A lot of guys stepped up this year,” Wagner said. “Alex Chan and those goes put it on themselves and overall it was a successful year. I’m sad for our seniors but excited about the future.”
Miller gets back Morris, Jackson Barrett, Ethan Murray among others for 2017 to try and make it four years in a row with a final four showing.