Miller's Career-High 15 Ks Propels Cal to Seventh Straight Win

Photo: Senior Kevin Miller fanned a career-high 15 batters yesterday against USF. He now has a 0.48 ERA.
Kevin Foote/Staff
Senior Kevin Miller fanned a career-high 15 batters yesterday against USF. He now has a 0.48 ERA.

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At the start of the Cal baseball team's season, pitcher Kevin Miller didn't set any concrete goals for himself. Nothing that he'd been focusing on in the offseason. No numbers to shoot for.

"The biggest thing now is that I feel 100 percent," the right-hander said last month. "That's what I hope to be carrying through the rest of the year."

It's been more than enough. The Bears couldn't muster a run for six straight innings Tuesday, but it didn't matter. Miller's career-high 15 strikeouts - four short of the school record - kept a 2-0 lead safe in the squad's eventual 4-0 victory over San Francisco.

This spring has been a superlative one for the senior thus far, and the midweek matchup at the Dons' Benedetti Diamond was simply more of the same. Miller's new career mark only surpassed the one he set on Feb. 25, when he struck out 10 against Coastal Carolina in No. 13 Cal's third game of the season.

Two years ago, Miller pitched his way to a 4.50 ERA on an injured left hip and labrum. Last spring was a mixed outing for a pitcher who didn't allow a run for his first 44 innings as a freshman; he made only four starts - a number he matched when he took the mound at USF - and ended the season with a 3-3 record and 4.72 ERA.

But things have worked out nearly perfectly for him in his final year in Berkeley, as he's filled the middle reliever and midweek starter roles with ease. When Saturday starter Justin Jones gave up a 6-1 deficit to then-No. 18 Rice in the fifth, Miller stepped in and kept the hole from deepening. The Bears (17-5, 3-0 in the Pac-10) fought to a 7-6, 15-inning win.

Yesterday, he opened the game with an impressive 0.61 ERA; his latest performance lowered that to 0.48, a number that's almost absurd given his 37 1/3 innings pitched. Only Jones has a carried a heavier workload with 42 innings.

He's one reason that the team is riding a seven-game winning streak, as well as winning 11 of its past 12.

Cal jumped ahead of the Dons (11-14) early Tuesday, earning two first-inning runs on catcher Chadd Krist's double and third baseman Devon Rodriguez's triple. In the bottom of the first, USF third baseman Stephen Yarrow singled on a 3-2 count.

It would be his team's only hit of the game.

Miller went to work for the next seven innings. He stayed ahead of batters, striking out three in a row on 1-2 counts in the second inning. Not much changed through the eighth inning, as Miller K'd every Dons batter at least once except freshman pitcher Alex Balog, who took the loss in his first collegiate start.

Cal tacked a run in both the eighth and ninth innings on doubles by second baseman Tony Renda and designated hitter Austin Booker, respectively. In the bottom of the final frame, junior reliever Matt Flemer stepped in to force a double play and a groundout to end the contest.


Jack Wang covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]

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