Pangburn Lowery Surgery right-handed pitcher JR Miller was nearly untouchable Wednesday evening in an American Legion (AA) Zone 3 match-up with the Post 64 Panthers at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.
Miller, who pitched for Harding Academy's 3A state championship team, struck out 16 batters while issuing two walks and only allowing two batters to put the ball in play as he threw a no-hitter in Pangburn's 10-0, six-inning victory.
“JR is just a strong kid. He can go the distance,” said Pangburn Coach Len Poe, whose team improved to 6-2 overall. “He pitched for us last year at Rose Bud and of course he pitched for
Harding Academy and they won the state finals. I just can't say enough about JR. He is lights out every time I put him on the mound.”
Pangburn's roster consists of one player from Riverview and two from each of five schools, including Searcy, Rose Bud, Midland, Harding and Pangburn.
“Our expectations are to win our zone. That's our goal,” said Poe. “And then we want to go as far as we can in state. We've got some boys that I think can get it done and we are putting it together a little more every game. I think we are going to peak at the right time.”
With a roster full of 13-17 year-old kids, Heber's expectations this season are much different. “We are looking to get better. That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter how many we win or lose,” said Post 64 Coach B.J. Greene. “We want to get kids at-bats, ground balls, fly balls, that's what we are looking to do.”
The Panthers (0-2), who lost their season opener 10-0 Monday at Stuttgart, started five future freshmen versus Pangburn.
“We had a lot of eighth-graders out there today because a lot of our upperclassmen are gone and I thought they played really well defensively.
"None of us hit. That was the MVP of the state championship game in 3A and we just couldn't hit him. He was on today and then you take the fact that you have eighth-graders trying to hit against an 18-year old … that's just part of it,” added Greene. “We lost 10-0 and we lost 10-0 the other day against Stuttgart but the kids are improving and that is the big key.”
Facing Heber starting pitcher Hunter Chandler, Lowery Surgery took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning as Hunter Poe of Pangburn walked, stole second and scored on an RBI single off the bat of Caleb Spears, who played for Post 64 last season.
Lowery Surgery added two more runs in the third as Searcy's Colby Crossen singled and scored on a passed ball and Riverview's Sidney Owens walked and scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Rose Bud's Tyler Bell.
Page 2 of 2 - Miller fanned the first six batters he faced before Heber's Bryce Smith bounced out to Crossen at shortstop to start the bottom half of the third. Miller struck out the next two and Lowery Surgery added four more runs in the fourth as Spears, Crossen and Owens each singled and scored, while Midland's Dalton Passmore reached on a dropped third strike and scored.
With two outs, Pierce Mitchum worked a walk to break up Miller's perfect game bid in the bottom of the fourth. But Miller struck out three more batters in the inning, preserving Pangburn's 7-0 lead.
Lowery Surgery tacked on two more runs in the fifth as Poe reached on an error and scored on Spears' RBI double, tomahawked to the gap in right center. Alec Bourgeois of Pangburn drove home Spears with an RBI groundout, pushing Lowery Surgery's lead to 9-0 before
Heber relief pitcher Sam Lee left two stranded by inducing a groundout to Chandler at second. Slade Welch and Andrew Bradshaw also pitched in relief for the Panthers.
Pinch-hitter Maison Thompson of Searcy walked to start the sixth and scored on Poe's RBI groundout, giving Pangburn a 10-0 lead.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Chase Gallaway worked a full-count walk for Heber's second base runner of the evening, but Miller responded with a pair of strikeouts to close out his no-hitter.
Spears led Pangburn's offense, finishing 3-for-3 with 2 RBI and 2 runs. Crossen finished 3-for-4 with 2 runs, while Owens (1-for-3) and Poe also scored 2 runs. Bell added 2 RBI for Lowery Surgery.