Whitworth University all of a sudden seems to have a pipeline to some of the top baseball and football athletes in the Greater Spokane League.
Paul Miller of Mead became yet another standout student/athlete to decide to attend Whitworth, and he hopes to play both baseball and football.
“I’d say football is my first love,” said Miller, who was a two-year starter at cornerback and played some running back. “I grew up in Nebraska watching Cornhuskers football.”
Miller, a three-year starter at shortstop, had a sensational final GSL season in baseball. As the team’s leadoff hitter, he led in hitting (.508, 33 for 65), homers (seven, tops in GSL), RBIs (31) and stolen bases (31). His career average is .460 with 55 stolen bases (school record), 60 RBIs and a .561 on-base percentage.
He’s been surprised by his increased power.
“I didn’t hit any homers until this year,” said Miller, crediting a strength trainer he worked with last winter.
Miller will leave Mead as one of his baseball coach’s favorite players.
“I can’t say enough about Paul,” Mead coach Jason Reich said. “He’s been a class act all the way through.”
Miller has been a leader on and off the field. He will graduate with a 4.0 grade-point average and be one of Mead’s valedictorians.
He’s not ready for the baseball season to end, though. If the Panthers, who won Monday, win today they’ll earn a regional tournament berth and take on GSL champ Ferris in the district title game Friday at Avista Stadium.
In football, he played on a team loaded with junior and sophomore talent. Mead finished fifth in the GSL at 4-5, 5-5 overall.
“It was a frustrating season,” Miller said. “We had the talent. I don’t know if it was lack of senior experience to lead the younger guys or what. But it was a fun season, too. I don’t regret any of it.”
This spring, every time Miller got on base he seemingly stole a base or two. It was automatic.
“I’ve always been aggressive on the base paths,” he said. “This year I was more confident as a base runner.”
The Panthers tied for fifth in the GSL at 10-8.
“We obviously have the talent,” Miller said. “A lot of it I think is we just haven’t got into a rhythm because of the weather. We have a lot of young guys. When I was young I was inconsistent, too. It’s just a matter of putting it to use every day.”
Mead was swept in a league-ending doubleheader at University on Friday. Still, the Panthers head into district optimistic, Miller said.
“Even though we got swept by University we still go into the playoffs with some confidence,” Miller said. “We won four of our last six. We know what we’re capable of doing. We’re not overconfident because we know we’ve had some poor moments. But we can make a run in the playoffs.”
That’s the kind of leadership Reich appreciates.
“He’s a natural leader – in action and in words,” Reich said.
Hot and not so hot
University (14-4), GSL runner-up, secured the No. 1 seed to the District 8 3A tournament by winning 10 of its last 11 games. The Titans have a regional berth locked up and are automatically in the best-of-3 series to decide the district title.
“We are thrilled to have played so well this year,” U-Hi coach Scott Sutherland said. “I picked us to finish fifth based on our key losses – a really good starting pitcher and our starting catcher. Usually that doesn’t bode well for teams in the long run.
“Our defense was our solid fallback plan when our pitchers were being hit. We committed only 26 errors in 18 games. That is amazing for a high school team.”
Senior shortstop Nick Motsinger had just two errors. Senior center fielder Thomas Wakem ended up hitting a GSL-leading .627 (37 for 59), breaking many of the Titans’ school records. He had 42 RBIs. He struck out just seven times. Pitchers Cody McGlocklin and Tim McBroom each finished leagueplay with 6-1 records. McBroom had a team-leading 2.02 ERA and McGlocklin led in strikeouts (43).
• Mt. Spokane (11-7) went from having a chance to defend its league championship to slipping to fourth in the final week, losing four straight.
But Wildcats coach Alex Schuerman is nonplussed going into district.
“There’s two different seasons,” Schuerman said. “Season one is done with and you can’t get back anything that you want to try to get back. As much as we didn’t get to where we hoped we’d get at the end of Season One you can’t get it back. Now we have to regroup and focus on Season Two. I think we can be a team to reckon with in Season Two. That has to be our mentality. We’ve got to have a short memory and flush the past. A lot of good things can happen still. There’s a lot of baseball left.”
Mt. Spokane takes on Shadle Park (11-8) today at 4 in a loser-out game at Avista Stadium. The winner earns a berth to regionals and advances to face top-seeded University.
GSL champs all year
Ferris became just the third school since the GSL’s inception in 1976 to capture league titles in football, boys basketball and baseball.
Shadle Park was the first school to do it in 1981-82 during the Mark Rypien era. Gonzaga Prep turned the hat trick the following year. At least two of the three titles have been captured 16 other times.
Ferris coach Jim Sharkey was part of two league titles, including the state title in football.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Sharkey said of being part of two league titles. “It’s an amazing tribute to the kids. Great chemistry, great kids.”
Now the Saxons (16-2), who are automatically headed to regionals, sit back and wait for a team to emerge from district games. Ferris is in the district title game Friday at Avista.
“I think the difference with us is we’ve had production one through nine in our lineup,” Sharkey said.
This ‘n that
Pullman (14-4) wrapped up the Great Northern League title last week, but the Greyhounds saw their 14-game winning streak snapped when Medical Lake swept them in a doubleheader.
• The District 7 2A tournament begins today with a pair of loser-out games. No. 6 East Valley (5-13) is at No. 3 Cheney (13-5) and No. 5 West Valley (7-11) goes to No. 4 Medical Lake (8-10). Both are at 4 p.m.
In games Wednesday, the EV/Cheney winner goes to No. 2 Clarkston (13-5) and the WV/ML winner travels to No. 1 Pullman. Both are at 4. District play concludes Saturday at Avista.
• Coeur d’Alene (17-1 overall, 8-0 league) wrapped up the 5A Inland Empire League championship Saturday when it swept Lewiston 8-0 and 3-1. It’s the first time the Vikings have swept four league games from Lewiston (12-8, 5-5) since 2001. It’s also CdA’s first outright league title since 2001. The Vikings shared the championship with Lewiston in 2005.
The Viks have won 11 in a row.
CdA senior pitcher Jake Pereira improved to 8-0 with a two-hitter in the first game. He lowered his ERA to 0.90 and has 27 strikeouts and seven walks in 36 innings. Senior second baseman Matt Lambert leads in hitting (.466, 27 for 58) and runs (26). Senior shortstop Drew Turbin leads in homers (four), RBIs (29) and stolen bases (20). As a team, CdA has 86 stolen bases.
The Region I tourney begins next week.
• Moscow (9-7, 5-1) took the lead in the 4A IEL and secured the top seed to regionals by sweeping Sandpoint 8-4 and 7-3 on Saturday. Sandpoint travels to Lakeland today for a doubleheader that will decide the second and third seeds to regionals, which begin Saturday.
• Timberlake (9-6, 6-2) vaulted past Bonners Ferry (5-11, 5-4) into first place in the Intermountain League when the Tigers swept the Badgers 4-3 and 7-0 on Saturday.
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