PREP BASEBALL: Fairfield uses ace, patient at-bats to pace 10-1 conference win

Apr. 30—BENTON — Fairfield's baseball field doesn't have an official name, but "Miller Park" could easily be a frontrunner.

In the Falcons (12-5, 6-0 NECC) 10-1 win over Eastside (10-4, 3-2 NECC) Tuesday afternoon at home, the suggestion could easily stick given how each of Fairfield's four Millers in the lineup made an impact in the midweek win.

It started with Landon Miller, who saw his ERA rise to a dismal 0.38 in the complete game effort, picking up his seventh win of the season.

"We kind of do a bit of everything and we just know with our pitching it doesn't take a lot for us with Landon," Fairfield coach Darin Kauffman said. "Just an overall great game, big win. We knew we had to stay undefeated with Westview looming."

Both the Falcons and Warriors (10-8, 5-0 NECC) share the unbeaten label in the conference. They'll play on May 14th in Emma.

Landon Miller allowed just one run on two hits, striking out eight after walking two. Eastside's strategy was to chase him early in counts. It worked in the first inning.

Following a hit batter, Eastside strung together singles to the opposite side of the field. The second base knock brought in the lead runner, setting up the visiting Blazers with an early 1-0 lead.

Fairfield's approach at the plate was far different and while the scoreboard showed a 1-0 Eastside lead after two, the Falcons got what they wanted.

"The biggest thing is we worked the count well," Kauffman said about the strategy in facing Blazers starter Jace Mayberry. "I know we didn't score the first two innings, but he was at 46 pitches after two. Eventually we kind of [worked] those long pitch counts, and I thought we worked the count very well, and eventually [Mayberry] left a couple over and we did a good job manufacturing there."

Mayberry's four strikeouts came in the first two innings, but the walks soon followed. In the third, Fairfield received its first run when designated hitter Eli Miller sent a sacrifice fly out to center, allowing Michael Slabaugh to tag and score from third.

Tied at one, Fairfield opted for a small-ball approach in the bottom half of the fourth.

"We saw some of their positioning and I was like 'Oh, let's try,' and Mitchell [Miller] made a good bunt down, and then they were playing back there and Luke [Mast] laid one down again and it got them off balance there," Kauffman said about the two successful bunts that followed Keegan Miller's single to open the frame.

With the bases clogged and nobody out, Fairfield turned to the top of the lineup card. Cohen Yoder brought in the go-ahead run with his bases loaded walk. After Mayberry departed without getting an out, Eastside sent in Ryder Reed to seal the wound. He would, but not until Slabaugh's single up the center scored a pair, helping Fairfield take a 4-1 advantage.

"Slabaugh, he's just Slabaugh," Kauffman said of the senior catcher who continues to lead the conference in a batting average near .600. "Worked the count the one he did and then gets two strikes, battles all the way back and then hits the ball up the middle ... that guy is amazing. Him and Landon have just been aces on the mound and behind the plate."

Landon Miller continued to push forward on the mound. The righty settled in after allowing just his second earned run of the season in the first. Four the remaining nine batters he faced in the final three innings were sent down by strikeouts.

"Landon settled down after the [first] inning, and we knew what he was going to do on the mound for us so giving up one run, his ERA went up," Kauffman said with a smile after the game.

Fairfield also turned two double plays defensively, committing just one error on a missed popup. Eastside missed two popups in the sixth inning, allowing Fairfield to blast open the score late.

The Falcons batted around in the final frame, but the highlight came from yet another Miller. Keegan Miller's three-run homer to right field with two outs in the inning was clobbered. It gave Fairfield the eight-run difference before a double from Mast sent Mitchell Miller home to score.

After starting with the small ball strategy, Fairfield couldn't hold back on the power with Slabaugh's triple in the frame helping the Falcons to hit for the cycle as a group Tuesday afternoon.

"We knew it was going to be that close 1-1 game, and then I think it just kind of let that pressure off and they had fun and you can see what we can do when the pressure is not so much on us," Kauffman said.

The Falcons out hit Eastside 9-2. Landon Miller and Keegan Miller joined Kauffman and Mast with recording multiple hits. Yoder, Mitchell Miller and Slabaugh also walked twice. The Falcons walked nine times to the Blazers two.

Fairfield travels to Fremont (4-7, 0-4 NECC) this Thursday as conference play continues.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at