Male Athlete of the Week: Miller bringing consistency to top of Rams’ lineup
STRASBURG – When the top of half of the batting order for Strasburg’s baseball team hits a lull, leadoff man Adam Miller doesn’t take it too personally.
He doesn’t try to go out of his way to help break the dry spell, which could lead him to mistakenly alter his approach. His mentality remains the same – as the Rams’ leadoff hitter, he’s simply looking for a way to get on base. Sure, there’s pressure that comes with being a team’s table setter, but Miller doesn’t feel it.
“I know what I’m trying to do at the plate,” Miller said before practice on Monday, “and it doesn’t really change from game to game.”
Neither does his production.
Longtime Rams head coach Jeff Smoot called Miller “probably our most consistent offensive player” on Strasburg’s roster this spring, and the junior was just that for the Rams last week.
In three games, Miller was 4-for-8 at the plate and reached base nine times, scored seven runs and drove in four RBIs as the Rams went 2-1 during that span. He also pitched five innings of relief in a loss to Moorefield, West Virginia, while allowing just two runs.
Miller’s production has earned him The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week honor for April 18-24.
“He’s a guy that I think understands the mental aspect of hitting,” Smoot said. “He is able to adjust from one at-bat to the next, at times from one pitch to the next, and quite frankly not all kids can grasp those concepts. When he steps in the box you kind of know what you’re gonna get from him, and from the standpoint of managing the game offensively that is a big factor. That is very helpful to know, that when a hitter steps in the box, what you’re gonna get out of his at-bat. That is, I think, one of the best things that Adam brings to the table.”
In last Friday’s game against Shenandoah County rival Central, Miller helped snap a trend that saw the Rams squander a few offensive chances in a loss to Moorefield on April 20.
The junior shortstop reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances against Central and scored three times as the Rams held on for a 9-8 win. Miller’s performance was one of a handful of key contributions for the Rams, whose one through five hitters – Colten Smith, Josh Pritchett, Nate Butler and Ryan Bowers included – combined for six of Strasburg’s seven hits against the Falcons and all nine runs scored.
“It was just our mentality. We were more focused, we came in wanting to play more,” Miller said. “I mean our mentality wasn’t what it needed to be at Moorefield. We were just more energized, more excited all throughout pre-game and everything.”
Against Central, the Rams scored three runs each in the first, third and fourth innings. Each time, Miller led off the frame by reaching base.
In the bottom of the first inning, Miller was hit by a pitch – a feat he accomplished a total of three times last week to go along with two walks – and eventually scored on Butler’s three-run home run.
Two innings later Miller was hit again to lead off the third and scored when Butler was plunked with the bases loaded. Leading off the fourth inning, Miller lined a double into left-center – he may have been able to stretch it into a triple had the ball not skipped under the fence – and crossed the plate on an error.
“It’s always important for me to set the tone because if I’m on base it makes the job easier for everyone else, as we get on there, because (opposing pitchers) have to pitch out of the stretch, they have to look (over at the runners),” Miller said. “And Colten’s doing a really nice job, too, finding a way on. And then the heart of the order, they really started coming through. They had some opportunities at Moorefield. They knew they should’ve came through on some of those. We didn’t and they made up for it Friday night.”
This season marks Miller’s second at the varsity level for Strasburg. Last season as a sophomore, he took note of how former Strasburg leadoff hitter Noah St. Clair fought to extend at-bats and find a way on base, while Miller frequently resided in the sixth spot in the Rams’ lineup.
“It wasn’t as vital a role – I mean every role is vital – but I could really learn down there,” Miller said of batting sixth.
Smoot said Miller is noticeably stronger this season (he played quarterback and linebacker for the Rams’ football team in the fall), which the head coach said likely has led to Miller feeling less overwhelmed at the plate.
Miller said he’s also more comfortable trying to drive the ball when he steps to the plate.
“Last year it was more look for a walk, if they throw me something down the middle maybe I hit a single or something,” Miller said. “This year I’m driving the ball a little bit more, getting a little bit more extra-base hits and looking to hit a little bit more, where last year I was kind of scared at some points.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org