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Late rally, Josh Sanders pitching pushes Millers past Deer Creek

Zeros on the scoreboard became the norm for Yukon Thursday in the regional tournament.

Despite that, the Millers managed to take the first two games and advance to the regional championship game.

Yukon faced Moore in the first round in a low-scoring affair. The Millers were clicking on offense from the start, scoring one run in the bottom of the first.

Spectators grew accustomed to seeing 1-0 on the scoreboard as both teams failed to score over the course of the next six innings.

You’re going to get everyone’s best and we need to show our best,” Yukon coach Kevin James said. “Carson (Benge) threw a heck of a game in the first game. Their pitcher was money.”

Benge pitched all seven innings. He struck out eight and allowed two hits.

Next up for Yukon was Deer Creek, host of the regional tournament.

James put Josh Sanders on the mound against Deer Creek’s Max Huffing. The two pitched identical games until the sixth inning.

Neither team could figure out how to exploit the opponent’s defense for a majority of the game. The score read 0-0 through five.

“We had guys on, we just couldn’t get anything going,” James said.

With the game on the line, Yukon woke the bats for a big sixth inning.

The Millers seemed to chip away at the Antlers early. A ground ball error by Matt Wilson and a single by Nollan Koon and Jett Lodes filled the bases. Braylen Wimmer broke the game open with an RBI ground out, getting Lodes to home.

A free-flowing attitude filled the Miller dugout and the next three batters found ways to score runs. Yukon led 4-0 at the end of the inning. A three-up-three-down in the top of the seventh secured that Yukon would move on.

The Millers have been playing at the top of their game over the recent weeks. Playing at that level has bled over into the playoffs.

“It’s the full package,” James said. “It’s not just pitching and defense, but we ran the bases well today and we got a bunt down.”

Sanders finished the game giving up just three hits and striking out 12. James says his performance highlights team-wide success.

“He threw really well,” he said. “Maybe the best I’ve seen him throw. He has the chance to be a really special player. We’ve got a bunch of those guys.

“If we play like that, we can match up with anybody. There’s no question about it.”

Josh Sanders pitches late in the game against Deer Creek. Photo/Hayden Tucker

Huffing ended the game giving up seven hits, striking out six, and walking two.

As the innings passed and the score read zero, Sanders knew it wouldn’t last.

“It’s a grind but I know my guys have my back until the end,” he said. “I wasn’t worried.”

As the Millers move on in the playoffs, the game plan remains simple, says James.

“You’ve got to get them out 21 times. The whole deal is, you score more than they do and we did,” he said.

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