By Chuck Reherman
Yukon makes their annual trek to the southwest this week and is looking to come back as the “Best in the West.”
The Millers will play in the annual Best of the West Tournament in Arizona.
The Millers have had success in the tournament, even winning the title, but will face a tough challenge from four Arizona teams.
The Millers, 4-2, open the tournament today with a 2 p.m. game against Cactus Shadows High School from Cave Creek. The Falcons are 7-4 on the season.
The Millers return to play at 10 a.m. on Monday against Centennial High School out of Peoria. The Coyotes bring an 8-3 record into the game.
YHS will play Ironwood Ridge from Tucson at 1 p.m. It will be the first time the schools have met. Ironwood Ridge comes into the game with a 4-8 record.
The Millers wind-up the pool round play on Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Youngker from Buckeye. It will also be the first time the teams have played. Youngker comes in 4-6.
The Millers went 2-3 in last years tournament, losing their first three before winning the final two. One of those wins came over Cactus Shadows, 7-3, in the final pool round game.
Miller head coach Kevin James said his team will have to play with consistency in the tournament to have success. YHS has gotten good pitching so far this season, but errors and some struggles at the plate will have to improve against teams that have played twice as many games as the Millers.
The Millers slipped into a tie for second in the District 6A-1 race after splitting their series with Norman North.
Yukon, after losing a 5-4 decision to North at YHS on Monday, bounced back with a 3-2 win over the Timberwolves in Norman.
YHS is 3-1 in district play and tied for second with Mustang. The teams will meet in the next round of district games. YHS travels to Mustang on March 26 and will be the home team when teams play on Tuesday in the annual Battle of the Brick series at the Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City,
YHS won the bedlam game at the Brick last year, 3-1.
The Millers got a solid pitching performance from Payton Miller and had a pair of key hits to beat Norman North 3-2 on Tuesday.
Miller went six and one-third innings and allowed two runs, one earned, while giving up five hits and striking out seven. Riley Miller came in to finish the game, pitching two-thirds of an inning and recording a strikeout.
“We played better at times, but the one thing we did was pitch better,” James said. “We didn’t hit the ball very well and we did leave a lot of guys on base.
“We have some things we have to get ironed out before we go to Arizona,” he added. “We have a couple of days practice before we get on the bus.”
The Millers had five hits on the day and three of those came in the fourth inning that led to a pair of runs and a 3-2 lead.
YHS was down 2-1 going into the fourth when Drew Janvrin singled to start the rally. After moving to second. Ryland Vanlandingham lined a base hit to drive in Janvrin with the tying run.
Mason McIntyre’s single drove in Vanlandingham with the go-ahead run.
Norman North did threaten in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with two out. Miller struck out the next batter to get out of the jam.
The Timberwolves also had the tying run on base in the sixth inning. But, again, Miller worked out of the jam.
The Millers did take the initial lead in the top of the second when Dakota Ward reached on an error on a fly ball. Vanlandingham was hit by a pitch and it appeared the inning was over after Ward hit the fly ball with two out.
But, North mishandled the ball and Vanlandingham scored.
The Millers came up on the short end on Monday as North scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning and held on for a 5-4 win.
Yukon tried to get a rally going when Dalton Debaud reached on an error and scored on a single by McIntyre. The Millers had the tying run on first base, but North got the next hitter to fly out for the third out.
“This hurts big time,” James said. “We are going to have to play really well from here on out. That was a tough, tough loss at home.
“We make two bases running mistakes and it costs us a run, maybe a second one,” he said. “You can’t give away outs. We have an error early that costs us two batters. We let them have 16 runners on base and you can’t do that. It was not a good showing for us,”
YHS led once, scoring two runs in the third on an RBI single by Ward. YHS loaded the bases on singles by Vanlandingham and Jack Pritchard before Ward’s hit. Koon drove in a run, for a 3-1 lead.
By Chuck Reherman