FARMINGTON — The DC MOB opted to pitch ace Clay Miller in the first round of the city tournament, and it paid off Tuesday night.
Miller, a Bayfield High graduate and 35th round selection of the Kansas City Royals, racked up 14 strikeouts in six innings of work against 4-Corners in the opening round of the Connie Mack City Tournament at Ricketts Park. He allowed just one hit and didn't issue any walka, throwing fewer than 80 pitches as the MOB won 9-0 in a run-rule shortened game.
"I definitely felt good. With the defense behind me, I knew I just had to throw strikes," Miller said. "We knew we needed to win. It sets us up for all kinds of good stuff to come."
MOB head coach Ponch Garcia had a tough decision to make when naming his starter on Tuesday, with a matchup against three-time defending city champions Strike Zone Baseball looming in the second round.
"Everybody is thinking, 'Who do you throw today?' You sit down and strategize things a bit and have to go with the first win regardless," Garcia said. "The next game puts you one step closer, but the first game really matters for everyone. That is my belief."
Garcia also praised Miller's pitching.
"He had a little change up out there instead of fastballs all the time," Garcia said. "It keeps guys on their toes, and that is nice. It is nice to see he is confident with it. When you have confidence, that is what you want."
Garcia said 4-Corners' talent forced him to throw Miller in the first round.
"They have done really well. They just got back from a tournament in Albuquerque where we were, too. They ended up in fourth place. It was a 64- or 68-team tournament, and they came in fourth. That is a scrappy group," Garcia said of 4-Corners.
4-Corners head coach Brett Alexander admired Miller's performance.
"Clay Miller is a true No. 1. We didn't make adjustments in the box, and they put the ball in play," Alexander said. "It's a tough draw for Game 1, but, regardless, we have to compete better."
The MOB got the scoring going early with a run in the first when Austin Davis scored on an error after reaching on a walk and stealing second base.
The MOB added two more runs in the fourth, with Miller leading off with a single and Blake Dunlap doubling to the opposite field fence to score Miller. Dunlap later scored on a Frankie Gutierrez single up the middle.
4-Corners starting pitcher Dane Rowley was pulled after five and two-third innings when the MOB opened the sixth inning with three hits in their first four batters.
Gutierrez singled and Buddah Goosen doubled before Isaiah Mayberry singled to drive them both home. Matt Knickerbocker chipped in with an RBI-single to score Mayberry before Rowley was pulled.
Rowley was relieved by Austin Bayless for the duration of the game. Rowley was charged with six runs while striking out three, walking three and hitting a batter with a pitch.
Easton Garcia singled off Bayless, and Davis doubled to drive in Knickerbocker and Easton Garcia, giving the MOB a 9-0 lead.
4-Corners will get a bye in the loser's bracket and play again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the Sting and Aces, who play Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
"No matter who we play next, we better come ready to play. I have full confidence in our team, and I know we will bounce back and put up a fight," Alexander said.
The MOB will face Strike Zone Baseball at 8 p.m. Thursday.
"The way the bracket is set right now is kind of weird. Last year, it was way different than what it is now," Ponch Garcia said. "We will see what happens. Strike Zone is a great club right there. No question. ... Whoever comes out of that side of the brackets has to be ready to go take it."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.