Miller pitches Western Beaver past Serra Catholic into WPIAL finals
Brian Dzurenda's scouting report on Nick Miller couldn't have been better. In fact, the Serra Catholic coach was spot-on perfect.
Heading into Tuesday's Class A semifinal playoff game against Western Beaver, Dzurenda knew Miller had a nasty curveball that he would throw in any situation imaginable.
“The whole idea was to lay off the off-speed stuff,” Dzurenda said.
Serra did just that during the first two innings and Miller struck out four looking.
It was just a taste of what was to come.
Miller scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out 14 as Western Beaver advanced to next week's championship game with a 5-1 win that snapped top-seeded Serra's 14-game winning streak.
Western Beaver (17-2) will play OLSH (19-2), a 2-1 winner over California, next week at Consol Energy Park for the title.
Serra (18-2) will take on California (17-5) in the third-place consolation game with the winner advancing to the state playoffs.
“It just wasn't our day,” Dzurenda said. “But give that kid credit, that curveball was just devastating. He was the best pitcher we've seen all year, without a doubt.”
Serra came into the game striking out an average of six times per game. Miller reached that number nine batters into the game with the majority of them by way of the curve.
“He throws it three different ways so you never know which one is coming,” Western Beaver coach Chad Miller said. “He sets it up. He tries to spot his fastball but he isn't afraid to use that curveball.”
Miller added a pair of hits, including a RBI double in the fifth, while Robert DiMaggio, Cody Acon and Steve Menich added run-scoring singles to provide Western Beaver with all the runs it would need.
Serra (18-2) got a pair of hits from Dylan Kugler and scored its only run on a fourth-inning groundout by John Fazio.
Wayne Hydak (8-1) had been stellar for Serra this year but had the worst time for his roughest outing. Hydak, who walked only eight in 50 innings coming into the game, issued free passes to three of the five batters he faced.
Dzurenda yanked his ace with two outs in the first and down, 1-0.
“Wayne has been great for us all year,” Dzurenda said. “Looked like he was sliding on the mound and he was battling a quad injury from the last game. I am not real sure what happened with him.”
Chad Hazaga pitched the final 6 1⁄3 innings and kept Serra within striking distance, but got no help from the offense.
“It came down to inopportune hitting for us,” Dzurenda said. “We couldn't get that big hit to get things going then we started to fight ourselves at the plate.”
Serra was 1-of-13 with runners in scoring position with the only hit being an infield single by David Glumac in the sixth that didn't score a run.
“Nick takes it as a challenge once guys get on,” Miller said. “He takes it as a personal challenge. He doesn't give into batters. He is going to make them hit his pitch.”
Serra left runners at first and second in the fifth; first and third in the sixth and brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh when the Eagles loaded the bases with two outs for Dan Popovich, who struck out to end the game.
“We had opportunities but wasn't able to capitalize on them,” Dzurenda said. “You don't win many games when that happens.”