By Garth Shanklin
Last season, the Milford Eagles’ baseball team lost a total of three games. Fast-forward one year later, and the team finds itself with seven defeats on the season due in large part to a lack of consistency.
“We’re 11-7 right now,” Kilgore said. “I think our expectations were a little bit higher than that. We just haven’t found that level of consistency in the three major areas: pitching, defense, offense. We’ve done very well at times, rare to put all three together in a game.”
When the Eagles do find a way to put all of them together, the sight on the field is one to behold. For instance, the Eagles swept a doubleheader against Clio (Michigan) on Saturday, April 8 by 12-0 and 10-0 margins. In the first game, junior Mitch Mierke tossed a no-hitter, striking out six. More often than not, however, Milford pitchers have been forced to deal with runners on base who should not be there.
“Defensively,, we find a way to work in an error or two in a game, sometimes more,” Kilgore said. “When we play error free, or less than two errors in a game, we’ve been in every game. We’re more than capable of competing, we just need to clean up a bit.”
Offensively, the team is led by Matt Kirk, who leads the Eastern Cincinnati Conference with a .491 average and 21 runs batted in. Younger players are starting to share the load offensively for Milford, with junior Kyle Music seventh in the league in hitting at .452. Sophomore Brady Sluder is in the top 20 as well, hitting .379 as of April 25. Evan Baugh’s .396 average is also helping off-set some of the struggles of Milford’s top returning hitter, Wes Reid.
“Some of our younger players, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by,” Kilgore said. “Some of our veterans are a little inconsistent. We’re finding our form offensively, Reid got off to a slow start, he’s coming around now and starting to put the numbers up.”
On the mound, Milford lost a lot of talent from last season’s team, leaving a question mark at the position heading into the 2017 season. Baugh has thrown the most innings so far, posting a 2-1 record with 20 strikeouts in 26 innings. Baugh’s 2.69 ERA is second-best on the team, trailing only Mierke’s 1.94 mark.
“We had some questions there, bulk of our starters were going to be juniors,” Kilgore said. “They haven’t pitched poorly, they just haven’t dominated the way we have in the past. We missed Kyle Ruhleman, Brad Hall and Nathan Kroeger, we missed their leadership more so than what they had on the field. Sometimes you don’t realize the impact until the players are gone.”
The Eagles’ schedule doesn’t do the team any favors. In addition to the tough ECC slate, Milford’s non-conference slate of games also poses challenges.
“We’re in the midst of a week here that’s going to be good,” Kilgore said. “We played Walnut Hills [Monday] and we have two GMC schools [Colerain and Lakota West]. We’ve got a challenging schedule, we’ve had one from the beginning. That’s something that may have played a part in where we are record wise.”
The upside to a difficult schedule? It can prepare a team for the postseason, which is what Kilgore hopes happens with the Eagles.
“It makes us] more prepared when we get to the tournament,” Kilgore said. “We’re concentrating the on the last two weeks, trying to prepare ourselves for the tournament. We’re still there, we’re still working at it. We think we have an opportunity to make a run in the tournament, there hasn’t been a dominant one, two three in the city. I don’t think anyone has run away with it.”