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Serra graduate finding his groove in Cal Ripken League

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Serra gradue Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, is competing in the Cal Ripken League.
Courtesy of eyeonball.com
Serra gradue Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, is competing in the Cal Ripken League.
Serra grad Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, has been competing in the Cal Ripken League.
Courtesy of Seton Hill University
Serra grad Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, has been competing in the Cal Ripken League.
Serra grad Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, has been competing in the Cal Ripken League.
Courtesy of eyeonball.com
Serra grad Chris Miller, who plays at Seton Hill, has been competing in the Cal Ripken League.

First the World Series and then the home run derby.

Things have been pretty good for Chris Miller over the past couple of weeks, and knowing what the Serra Catholic graduate had to endure over the past couple of years, it was sure a welcome sight.

After transferring from Division I Akron and enduring a position switch that added to a sub-par freshman year at Seton Hill that ultimately got him left off the regional roster, Miller was a vital part of the Griffins' first trip to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships.

Miller has parlayed that into playing summer ball for the Rockville Express in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League — an under-23 amateur summer wooden bat baseball league composed of 11 teams in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Region — and being picked to participate in Wednesday's home run derby.

Miller advanced to the finals of the home run derby at Shirley Povich Field (home of Georgetown University) with three homers that traveled nearly 400 feet. He finished in a tie for second place in the two-round event.

Yeah, things have been pretty good for Miller lately.

“It was a fun time,” Miller said. “When my general manager called to ask me if I wanted to do it I said sure. It was a lot of fun.”

Fun was something Miller didn't have much of last year.

Miller's freshman season at Seton Hill wasn't what he was hoping for. He played in only 20 games, starting 14, while hitting .146 with five RBIs. Miller went hitless in his final 12 at-bats and didn't play in Seton Hill's last 11 games.

By comparison, he hit .627 with five home runs and 28 RBIs as a senior at Serra and hit a combined .350 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 50 games the summer before arriving at Seton Hill.

“I knew I was a lot better than what I was showing last year,” Miller said. “I had a few opportunities and didn't capitalize on them. I went up there and just wanted to see the pitch and hit it and that's what I did.”

Miller hit .315 with 37 RBIs and two home runs in 51 games as he helped Seton Hills go 41-17.

Miller was named to the NCAA Atlantic Regional team a year after not even making the trip with the team.

“It was surreal for me because last year I didn't have the greatest year ever,” Miller said. “It kind of came full circle this year with me being able to contribute a lot and to be able to catch the winning game of the regional championship was special. It was amazing being a part of that.”

Along with success in college means playing summer ball.

A year ago, Miller played for Martha's Vineyard Sharks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

When Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi asked Miller where he wanted to play this year, Miller didn't hesitate with his answer.

“I told him that I sort of wanted to stay around home,” Miller said. “Last year with a 12-hour drive and a boat ride, that was pretty far.”

Miller now plays just 25 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.

“I love D.C. and this league is pretty competitive,” Miller said. “There are a lot of D-I kids in the league and our team has been winning a lot so we have been facing a lot of Division I pitchers. It is a little bit different than what we were facing back home at school.”

After a strong start, Miller has struggled recently, seeing his batting average dip to .177 for the 17-13 Express.

“At first, it didn't matter whether it was a blooper or hard hit, they were all dropping in,” Miller said. “Now, everything I hit hard is right at somebody. There were games that I went 0 for 4 and I should've gone 4 for 4. I am not too worried about it. I am hitting the ball hard so I can't complain. That's baseball.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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