For the past two years, Bobby Miller’s most important job in June was to keep the University of Louisville’s baseball team alive in the postseason.
No big deal, right?
Last weekend, the McHenry West graduate came through again, pitching the Cardinals (47-16) past Indiana with eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. Louisville then went on to beat Illinois State on back-to-back days to win its own NCAA regional and advance to this weekend’s best-of-three game super regional against East Carolina. The winner gets a spot in the College World Series in Omaha, which begins June 15.
While taming the Hoosiers, Miller admitted he didn’t have any more butterflies in his stomach than last season.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “Just a lot more confidence in my stuff this year. We knew we weren’t done. We’ve got some fight left in us. The whole season, we talk about playing postseason baseball. We feel pretty prepared when we get here.”
The 6-foot-5 right-hander has been a key contributor for the Cardinals as both a starter and a reliever. For the season, he is 6-1 with 78 strikeouts in 68 innings. Opposing hitters have batted .213 against him this season.
Just like last year, Miller made the move from the bullpen to a starting role midway through the season and enjoyed plenty of success.
In his past five starts since April 28, Miller is 4-1 with 32 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. He is second on the team in strikeouts this season (78), with 23 more than his freshman season in nearly the same amount of innings.
Earlier this season, he compiled two saves as the team’s closer before moving into a starter’s role.
“I think of myself as a starter,” he said. “I’ve just got to do a better job holding my velocity later in games.”
Miller, who features a fastball, changeup and slider, said his most potent strikeout pitch has been a well-placed fastball.
“Either an inside fastball or an elevated fastball,” he said. “I’ve got confidence in all of my pitchers. I’ve got confidence in whatever (pitching coach Roger Williams) calls for me.”
Miller’s success this season has come in part because of a more serene approach on the mound.
“I’ve tried to focus more on my emotions,” he said. “I struggled with that in the beginning of the year. I’m trying to stay more calm, stay more positive. It will help me out in the long run.”
The Cardinals opened the super regional series at home Friday with a 14-1 win against the Pirates in the opener.
Miller is a candidate to start Saturday's Game 2, which airs at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. Though Louisville does not officially announce its starting pitchers until gameday, Miller has been a reliable arm late in the season.
Helping his team get to Omaha would be a memorable achievement.
“That would mean a lot,” he said. “This would be my favorite group to do it with. I love these guys. That would be amazing.”
Sprint standout: Marquette senior Connor Boos (Huntley) was the team’s top sprinter in one individual event and two relays during the outdoor track and field season.
Boss led the team in 200-meter dash, posting a time of 22.10 seconds at the Big East Conference outdoor championships prelims. In the finals, Boos placed second in 22.23.
In the 4x100 relay, Boos was the opening leg on the team’s fastest effort of the year, a 41.79 time at the IC4A/ECAC meet in May. His lead leg on the team’s sprint medley relay squad at the Drake Relays in April helped Marquette post a season-best time of 3 minutes, 29.94 seconds.
Boos’ best 100-dash time of 10.86 ranked second on the team this season. The time helped him place third at the Big East outdoor meet.
Bradley breakthrough: Two local athletes were part of D-I Bradley University’s winningest soften season since 2004.
The team finished 29-21 this season, tying its program record for Missouri Valley Conference wins in a single season with 15.
Senior pitcher Megan Mahaffy (Crystal Lake Central) was the team’s top winner in the circle, going 9-4 with a team-high eight complete games. She walked only 12 batters in 79 1/3 innings.
Freshman catcher/utility player Carly Chovanec (Crystal Lake South) batted .286 while playing in 21 games.
Augie workhorse: Prairie Ridge grad Annie Timm was honored last month with the Hardest Worker Award by the D-III Augustana women’s tennis program.
The honor followed a season in which Timm, a sophomore, won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championships MVP honor after winning titles at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles. She finished 22-9 in singles and 24-5 in doubles and now has 88 career victories. Timm’s career singles winning percentage of .770 (47-14) ranks eighth-best in school history.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.