Barely two calendar weeks into the season, it’s tough to say whether the Clay Miller of new is the Clay Miller of old. That is, the Clay Miller that Bayfield baseball fans have ingrained in their brains.
The former Wolverine looked last Saturday night to finally have returned to his senior-year form, and the independent Pecos League’s reigning champions couldn’t have been happier.
One of the true highlights during the Tucson Saguaros’ 6-1 start, Miller excelled in his long-awaited pro debut. And not as a late-game substitute or pinch-hitter, but as the home team’s starter.
Facing the Hollywood Stars, Miller was given the Game 3 start at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.
In eight solid, sometimes overpowering innings of work, he allowed four hits and two runs – only one earned – while walking none and striking out 11 in a 4-2 win.
Against 29 batters faced, he threw a reported 91 pitches with 74 going for strikes. Losing pitcher Tom Haas, meanwhile, threw 129 pitches – 67 strikes – in taking an eight-inning, complete-game loss, though offensively he managed a triple and two runs batted in in his four at-bats.
No slouch with the stick either, Miller went 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk.
“It felt great,” Miller said. The 2013 BHS graduate has spent the past three springs as pitching coach and assistant to father Robert at Ignacio High while rehabbing his re-engineered left arm,
Miller was drafted in the 35th round of the MLB draft out of high school but turned down an offer from the Kansas City Royals. He attended South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and was having a strong freshman season before elbow trouble surfaced. He underwent Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and never played another college game.
Saturday’s performance was a glorious return to the mound for the hard-throwing lefty who has always had the ability to perform at the highest level.
Miller had family in attendance Saturday. Former Bayfield head coach Tom Horton also was there to cheer on his old player.
Durango Herald sports editor John Livingston contributed to this report.