MOUNT AIRY — Taking over for starter Garrett Schwartzbeck in the top of the fifth inning with two outs, Mount Airy relief pitcher Dylan Miller relied a lot of his slow, deceptive curveball.
The pitch, meant to break inside on a right-handed batter and outside on a left-handed batter, did its job, no-hitting Funkstown’s Dixon-Troxell Post 211 for the final 2 1-3 innings to preserve a 4-2 win and a second straight state championship for the Gold Star Post 191 Junior American Legion baseball team on Saturday at Lindsey Browning Field.
“It was working,” Miller, who earned the save, said of his pitches. “It was a big challenge. Funkstown is a very good baseball team.”
Miller came on in the fourth after Schwartzbeck threw his 104th pitch. The maximum number of pitches a Legion baseball player may throw in a game is 105.
When Miller went to the mound with two outs in the fifth, Funkstown had scored two runs to pull within 4-2. Complicating matters was the fact Funkstown had runners at second and third.
Mount Airy manager Ryan Staley had confidence in Miller.
“He’s a contact pitcher,” Staley said. “He throws the pitches, they put the ball in play and we rely on our defense to back Dylan up.”
Miller didn’t need the backup on the first batter he faced. He fanned Funkstown’s Cole Weaver when his curveball broke across the plate for a called third strike.
Miller faced down another situation in the sixth. With one out, after walking two straight Funkstown batters, he got Ian Selby to ground out to third base.
Miller walked Tyler Crain to lead off the seventh, but then struck out the side, with his slow breaking pitch catching the final batter looking.
Saturday’s win ends the Gold Star Post’s season. There are no regionals in Junior American Legion Baseball, but it still comes with a perk — the right to host the state tournament again next year.
“We struggled early in the season,” Staley said. “But we made some adjustments, sharpened our focus and ended up playing much better baseball. This is a great way to end the season, and we get to host this again next year.”
Mount Airy and Funkstown split the four-game series during the regular season. The Gold Star Post defeated Funkstown 6-4 in Friday’s winners bracket final.
Funkstown then earned a rematch with Mount Airy by eliminating Severn Post 276 8-1 earlier Saturday in a final elimination-round game.
In the final, Mount Airy took a 1-0 lead in the first on a balk. The Gold Star post plated three runs in the fourth on a two-run double from Jake Turner and a bases-loaded walk.
“I couldn’t feel the ball make contact with the bat,” Turner said of his double. “That told me I was right on the sweet spot.”
Logan DeBord had two hits with an RBI for Mount Airy. Through 4 2-3 innings, Schwartzbeck, who picked up the win, gave up five hits with one strikeout.
Alex Cuevas had a double for Funkstown.