Durham County

Miller, Jordan handle Crusaders in baseball

Cardinal Gibbons' Luke Hutchinson is safe at first base but teammate Michael Burns is tagged out at third by Jordan's Davis Downey on Friday, April 21, 2017. Burns injured his right shoulder on the play and left the game. Jordan won 4-3.
Cardinal Gibbons' Luke Hutchinson is safe at first base but teammate Michael Burns is tagged out at third by Jordan's Davis Downey on Friday, April 21, 2017. Burns injured his right shoulder on the play and left the game. Jordan won 4-3.

Sophomore pitcher Ben Miller didn't let a half-hour rain delay bother him on Friday as he tossed four strong innings after a rocky start and chipped in with a pair of RBIs to lead Jordan to a 4-3 win over Cardinal Gibbons.

"I knew I had to stay focused out there," Miller said. "They have some very good hitters and I just had to throw strikes. The rain delay was tough but the way my guys played on defense behind me was great. They made some big plays out there and I've got confidence in them."

The victory gave the Falcons some breathing room in the PAC-6 race as they handed Cardinal Gibbons only its second loss — both against Jordan. The Crusaders (14-2, 6-2 PAC-6) have six games left, including four in the conference. They'll have to hope Jordan falters in at least one of its final two conference games to snag a share of the conference title.

While it wasn't a clinching victory for Jordan (16-4, 9-1), the players treated it as one as they doused Coach Aaron Brown with a cooler bath during the postgame interviews. The Falcons have two PAC-6 games remaining and only have to win one of them to clinch the regular-season title. They also have two additional nonconference games to round out their season.

"It was very high-level high school baseball," Brown said. "Their pitcher was sharp. We got some timely hits. They were really, really good and it's a shame that somebody had to lose that one."

Cardinal Gibbons jumped on Miller for two runs in the first but after that he settled down and held the Crusaders to one more run over the next four innings. Miller was bailed out on more than one occasion by sterling defensive plays in the field.

Catcher Chris Sheperd had a trio of them. Twice he fielded short hits in front of the plate and threw out the runners at first. And in the second inning, he took a throw from the outfield and ran down Dane Stewart on the way back to third base to end another early Crusader threat.

Jordan tied the game in the third as freshman Ryan Wilson and senior Will Hoyle singled in in bottom of the third. A sacrifice bunt by Shepherd moved them to second and third before Miller knocked them both in to make it 2-2.

The Falcons took the lead for good by putting together a two-out rally with a single by Nick Fajardo. Wilson doubled in Fajardo and was subsequently scored on another single by Hoyle to make it 4-2.

Miller gave up a leadoff home run to Noah Campbell in the top of the fifth inning that cut the Falcons' margin to 4-3 but he was able to get out of trouble after giving up a single and a walk by getting Eric Farley to line out to second which started a double play.

"That double play came at an important part of the game," said Cardinal Gibbons coach Jim Liebler. "We knew it was going to be a close game and nobody was going to fold. We scored early and they came back. It was a back-and-forth game."

Tyler Wilson took over in the sixth for Miller, whose pitch count had run out, and earned the save. Cardinal Gibbons got runners on base in both innings but Wilson buckled down each time and kept them from plating any runs.

Cardinal Gibbons got a pair of hits each from Chris Thorburn (2 for 4) and Gary Betts (2 for 4), while Jordan's leading hitters were Wilson (2 for 4) and Hoyle (2 for 3).

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @HPreps

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