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Miller’s Time: Senior ace hopes to pitch Berkeley Carroll to state title

Safe!: Berkeley’s Chris Harper slides safely into third base.
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Ian Miller knows there is a glaring gap in his legacy as a member of the Berkley Carroll baseball team as he heads into his senior season.

The right-handed ace, who joined the varsity squad as a freshman, has yet to led the Lions to a private school state title — despite coming painfully close twice.

Miller watched a 1–0 sixth-inning lead in the final against Poly Prep slip away as a freshman, and fell again to the three-time defending champion Blue Devils — and star pitcher Andrew Zapata — in last year’s semifinals.

“I know I want to be that older guy to win a state championship his senior year,” the Harvard-bound Miller said. “It’s definitely a big thing for me.”

Lions coach Walter Paller admires Miller’s commitment to earning him and this team a place in school history. Paller has watched his ace round into form as the weather has gotten warmer.

Miller, whose fast ball tops out at 86–87 miles per hour, tossed a shutout against Rye Country Day to best their ace Tyler Ferguson. On a team loaded with pitching, Miller has the potential to be as dominant a force in big games as Zapata was for Poly Prep in recent years.

“He was the great equalizer,” Paller said of Zapata. “It would be great if Ian could be that guy this year.”

Berkeley Carroll, which is unbeaten in the early season, will rely heavily on its pitching and defense, as it has in the past. Chris Harper, Jake Simpson and Justin Pacheco sit behind Miller in the rotation. Pacheco just a freshman, threw a no-hitter against Dwight last weekend. His command and ability to keep the ball down reminds Paller of Miller at the same age. Yanai Feldman is a strong defensive catcher, makingit even harder for opponents to scratch runs against the Lions.

“We pitch it. We catch it,” Paller said. “We don’t give you anything. Hitting is probably the last think I worry about.”

The Lions lineup once again won’t beat you with power, but with consistent hitting and smarts instead. Middle infielder Richard Palacios is consistently on base, and Harper and Miller are reliable run producers.

Berkeley Carroll’s biggest test so far this season comes this weekend. It faces the Ivy League’s Collegiate, and has a double-header with Hackley and Riverdale in the span of three days. Each of those contest are important for the seeding in the private school baseball tournament. The Lions won’t step on the field with Poly until May 5.

“I think it’s going to be a statement week for us,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but I think we are up for it.”

They would be important victories toward the ultimate goal of bringing home the school’s first state title since 2009.

“We have been successful in those games for the past few years,” Paller said. “That’s why the seeding as worked in our favor. We just have to close the deal.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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