By GREG KEIM firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — BENTON — It was “Miller Time” Tuesday evening at Fairfield High School and unfortunately for the hometown Falcons it was the wrong Miller that came out on top in the pitching decision.
Eastside sophomore Ashton Miller struck out 16 as the Blazers posted a 4-3 NECC win.
“Miller moved the ball around and mixed her speeds,” Fairfield coach John Skibbe said. “She did a great job moving the ball from the inside to the outside. She is an excellent pitcher, but we have got to put the ball in play more than we did tonight.”
The Falcons had six hits in the contest with the big blow being a two-home run by sophomore Jalisa Schwartz in the sixth inning.
“Ashton has great movement on the ball,” Eastside coach Aaron Willard said. “ The Fairfield pitchers moved the ball around as well. We just executed early and hung on at the end.”
Sophomore Lairen Miller pitched the first four innings for the Falcons and junior Danica Mast the final three.
The game was scoreless until the top of the third when Ashton Miller doubled home senior Eillie Parker. Miller scored the second tun on a squeeze bunt by junior Erin Strock.
The Blazers increased their lead to 4-0 when Strock belted a two-run home run in the top of the fifth.
“She has hit a couple of balls off the fence this season, but that is her first home run,” Willard said. “The wind was blowing out and that seemed to help. The ball seemed to carry tonight.”
Lairen Miller struck out four and walked none for the Falcons and Mast two and zero.
“I was happy with the way we pitched,” Skibbe said. “Danica made one mistake. She got a fastball up in the zone and Eastside made her pay for it.
“Lairen and Danica are similar pitchers and we are still trying to figure out how best to use them.. Last night we started Danica and brought Lairen in to relieve. Tonight we flip-flopped that.”
Fairfield tried to rally late in the game. With one out in the bottom of the sixth, senior Karen Schwartz singled and then Jalisa Schwartz followed with her round tripper to cut the Eastside lead in half.
The Falcon defense stopped a potential Blazer scoring threat in the top of the seventh by turning a double play. Lairen Miller, who moved to second base when she was relieved by Mast, threw out a batter at first base and Falcon first baseman senior Payton Kammerdiener gunned down an Eastside runner trying to advancing to third.
“Our defense played well, but there were a couple of plays we could have made and in a game like this those little things really count,” Skibbe said.
Kammerdiener got things rolling for the Falcons in the bottom of the seventh with a single. She was replaced at first base by junior Devyn Smallwood who hit into a fielder’s choice. Sophomore Alexis Zook brought the winning run to the plate when she reached on a single. Martz followed with an RBI single before Ashton Miller ended the game by inducing a Fairfield hitter to fly out to left field.
“We had a chance at the end, but we had others earlier in the game,” Skibbe said. “We had runners on second and third with no outs and couldn’t score. We needed to put a ball in play and we couldn’t. You have to give Ashton Miller some credit for that.”
Eastside is unbeaten in the NECC this season and last week won the conference tournament.
“Eastside has a good program,” Skibbe said. “We played them twice last season. Both games went extra innings with each team winning one. We know what it is like to play close games with them.”
Eastside 002 020 0 — 4-8-0
Fairfield 000 002 1 — 3-6-0
Pitching: (Eastside( Ashton Miller (W) 16 strikeouts, four walks. (Fairfield) Lairen Miller (L, 6-2) four strikeouts, no walks in four innings; Danica Mast two strikeouts, no walk.
Hitting: (Eastside) Erin Strock home run, two RBI; Miller double, singles, RBI, two runs; Kerissa Lockwood double, Ellie Parker single, run. (Fairfield) Jalisa Schwartz home run, two RBI, run; Karen Schwartz double, single, run; DJ Martz single, RBI; Payton Kammerdiener single, Alexis Zook single, Devyn Smallwood run.
Records: Fairfield 10-4, 3-2 NECC) at Fremont Thursday. Eastside (13-3, 6-0 NECC).
Follow sports reporter Greg Keim on twitter @gkeim_TGN.