Miller’s slam gives Blue Comets memorable baseball opener

Gage Miller remembers the details of his final at-bat in the season opener for Asheboro’s baseball team.

After that, it becomes a little less clear.

Miller’s game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning sent the Blue Comets to a 5-3 victory against Chatham Central last week at Kiwanis Park in Asheboro.

“That was something different right there,” Miller said. “My teammates were fired up. Came across home plate and we were all going crazy.”

Miller said it’s his first grand slam. Of course, it came at an ideal time.

The Blue Comets needed his production. “The game wasn’t going as we planned,” he said.

So with the bases jammed, Miller step to the plate with one out. There was a fastball in the dirt before he chased a curve ball. Then he swung at a high fastball.

From there, he said coach Brett Hoogkamp helped calm the situation. Then another curveball was on the way.

“He hung it and I didn’t miss it,” Miller said.

That resulted in a rather emphatic bat flip, one caught on video. Miller said his parents weren’t happy with that reaction and that Hoogkamp discussed it with him the next day.

“The bat flip was a little too much,” Miller said. “My adrenalin was just through the roof. I don’t even remember running around the bases.”

At the beginning of that trot, he had to shoo away teammate Josh Meadows who approached the first-base line in an early celebration.

Miller, a junior, is a third baseman who also has been used regularly as a relief pitcher. After last year’s solid season for the Blue Comets, he said his role is expanding.

“I came off a hot season last year,” he said. “We lost a couple of key seniors (from the 2021 team) and I knew I’d have to step up.”

Miller has been with the varsity since his freshman season. In last year’s abbreviated season, he smacked two home runs. He credits his work with hitting instructor Neal Pritchard, an Asheboro alum and former minor leaguer in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, for helping his development.

Miller has made a verbal commitment to play collegiately for North Carolina State.

To begin this week, Miller had another late-game turn at the plate with the bases loaded against Jordan-Matthews. This time, he drew a walk in Monday’s 9-1 home victory.

By Bob Sutton