High School Sports

Mike Fields notebook: April 30

PRP's Miller says prep baseball players put stats first

There is no more authoritative voice on Kentucky high school baseball than Pleasure Ridge Park Coach Bill Miller. He recently earned his 900th career victory, the third most in state history. In 30 years with the Panthers, he's won four state titles and been runner-up four times. He's a guru of the game.

So it was interesting to hear Miller expound on high school baseball when I called him to ask about his 900th win. He shrugged that off by saying he's been around a long time and has had a lot of good players. This year's PRP is 18-3 "but I don't know if that means anything. It may just mean we haven't played very good competition."

Thus began Miller's blunt appraisal of Kentucky high school baseball: "Everybody talks about how much better is these days, but I don't concur. Every year I think it gets weaker." Miller offered the opinion that past powerhouses, such as Madison Central's undefeated 1982 state champs and Harrison County's best clubs in the 1990s "would eat these teams alive today."

He thinks today's kids lack baseball instincts that come from playing a lot, even if it's stickball in the backyard.

"I think what happens is that parents are looking for shortcuts for their kids, so they pour money into private instruction, private hitting lessons." Miller thinks summer travel teams are also a curse. Players (and their parents) are more interested in individual highlights and catching a scout's eye than learning the basics of the game. "What's happening in baseball is what happened with AAU basketball several years ago, and it's pathetic what it did to basketball."

Just as some kids (and their parents) consider AAU hoops more important than the high school game, Miller thinks the same thing is taking hold in baseball. Parents are wary of their kids' high school coaches counteracting what their kids learned in private instruction. "Used to be, parents brought their kids to us and asked us to make them better," Miller said. "Now they say, 'My son's been working with so-and-so. I don't want you messing with him.

"I guess I sound like a doomsayer," Miller added. "I hope I'm wrong. Maybe it's a cycle. Maybe we'll see better teams and players come along. But it doesn't seem to be going that direction."

■ Lexington Christian Academy will try to defend its Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic baseball title at Applebee's Park this weekend if weather permits. Saturday's first round: DeSales vs. Bishop Brossart, 8:30 a.m.; Russellville vs. Middlesboro, 10:30; Ballard Memorial vs. Whitefield Academy, 1 p.m.; LCA vs. Pikeville, 3. The semifinals are Saturday at 5:30 and 7:30. The finals are Sunday at 1.

■ Henderson County Coach Nathan Isenberg is touting two of his players as Mr. Baseball candidates. Senior catcher Kyle Gibson, a Louisville signee, is hitting .485 with eight homers and a slugging percentage of 1.121 (anything over .500 is considered terrific). Senior second baseman/pitcher Myles Scott is batting .477 with four homers, and is 4-1 on the mound.

■ Green County freshman Brennen Milby has thrown two no-hitters against Barbourville and Montgomery County this season. He almost had another no-no against Casey County, but gave up a hit with two outs in the seventh. Milby has been throwing for the varsity since he was a seventh-grader, and already has more than 100 career strikeouts. He is 4-5 this season with 61 K's in 44 innings and a 2.24 ERA.

■ Lexington Christian alum Austin Johnson, a freshman at Lincoln Memorial, made the South Atlantic Conference all-tournament team after he pitched a complete game in a 5-1 win over Tusculum. Johnson finished the season with a 3-3 record.

■ Bryan Station alum Brandon Boling, a freshman pitcher at Gardner-Webb, is 2-1 in 28 innings of work.

■ Lafayette's fast-pitch softball team beat Henry Clay last week for the program's 400th victory. Only eight other schools have reached that plateau: North Laurel, Reidland, Owensboro Catholic, Christian County, Greenwood, Clark County, South Laurel and Allen County-Scottsville. Lafayette is No. 4 in the state this week.

■ Moriah Corey of Butler and Neil Wilson of Monroe County are the state-wide winners in the Forcht Group/Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA Sportsmanship Recognition Program. They each receive a one-time $3,000 scholarship. Corey played basketball and runs track for Butler. She is considering going to Thomas More to play basketball. Wilson was a star receiver in football and also played basketball. He is headed to Western Kentucky to play football.

■ Justin Yeary, Paul Laurence Dunbar's new boys' basketball coach, worked with some of the best girls' players in the state in recent years. As an assistant at LCA, Yeary helped Emily London (Samford), Anna Martin (DePaul) and Sarah Beth Barnette (UK). This past season at Dunbar, he worked with Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee). Yeary said those shining stars had a lot in common. "When practice was over their workout wasn't over. They found a way to do more. That's what separated them from the pack and made them phenomenal players. They were very talented and great athletes, but they had a great work ethic to go with it. That's what was amazing about them."

■ Seniors Josh Haggard of Blue Grass Baptist and Kathryn Briggs of Trinity Christian have been selected Mr. and Miss Basketball for the Kentucky Christian Athletic Association. Haggard averaged 17.5 points this season. He hasn't made his college choice. Briggs averaged 14 points and 17 rebounds, She will attend Western Kentucky, but not play basketball. The KCAA's Mr. and Miss Basketball honors are based on athletic accomplishments, academics, character and leadership on and off the court.

■ In a matter of days this week, Mercer County fired boys' basketball coach Nelson Cundiff, who led the Titans to a 22-10 record and runner-up finish in the 12th Region, and promoted assistant Brian Britt to the top job. Cundiff told the Danville Advocate-Messenger, "I'm stunned. I'm disappointed. I'm hurt." Principal Terry Yates said the school administration and Cundiff had differences in "how the program should be run as far as communications and policies and procedures."

■ South Laurel assistant Brad Sizemore is the new boys' coach at Garrard County.

■ Doss hired K.C. Goodin as its boys' coach. He was a star at LaRue County in the mid-1990s and played for Georgetown College's 1998 NAIA national champs. He's been an assistant at Georgetown the last four years.

■ Former University Heights hoops star Tyshwan Edmonson has transferred from St. John to Austin Peay.

■ The 13th Region boys' all-star games are Sunday at Knox Central. The top 20 underclassmen play at 2; the top 20 seniors follow at 3:30.

■ Shelby Valley fans supported their team all the way to the Sweet Sixteen title — and beyond. The Wildcat faithful got out the vote on the Internet, and wound up earning Shelby Valley the MaxPreps national championship. A 64-team tournament was held, with games decided by fan voting. Shelby Valley was the "MaxMadness" titlist. The Cats out-polled Sts. Neumann & Goretti of Philadelphia 77 percent to 23 percent in the finals.

■ Shelby Valley's Tyler Newsome has signed to play college hoops at Pikeville.

■ Union College signed three high school basketball stars — Madison Johnson of Corbin, Cody Miller of Knox Central and Matt St. John of South Laurel.

■ West Jessamine's boys' basketball team will play a group of former UK players, including Mark Krebs, Perry Stevenson, Wayne Turner and Bobby Perry, on May 27 at 7 p.m. at the high school. Proceeds will benefit West Jessamine's girls' program.

■ Dunbar distance runner Megan Klein is excelling in a new event for her — the 2,000-meter steeplechase. She ran it for the first time at the Volunteer Track Classic in Knoxville two weeks ago and was runner-up. "She was clearly a natural," Dunbar Coach Killian Timoney said. Klein did even better in the Eastern Relays at the University of Louisville last week. She won the steeplechase in 7:13, a time that qualified her for the New Balance National Championships in North Carolina in June. Timoney said Megan and her parents thought the steeplechase might set her apart from other milers in the state. Timoney also noted that Megan was a hurdler in middle school, so the steeplechase barriers don't bother her.

■ Dunbar alum Charlie Schaffer played in 10 tournaments as a freshman golfer at Loyola of Chicago. The highlight was a first-round 64 in the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational. It was the second-lowest score in school history.

■ Many of the state's top high school golfers (boys and girls) will play in the fourth annual Kentucky Junior Masters at Champions Trace this Sunday.

■ Raceland and Ohio State grad Aaron Pettrey, who set a state high school record with a 58-yard field goal in 2003, signed a free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers.