CARY, N.C.—Milton (Ga.) High catcher Alex Miller dropped a bunt with one out in the seventh inning, hoping to give the Eagles, facing a 2-0 deficit, a baserunner.
He dropped it down well and ran hard to first base while his counterpart with The First Academy, Cody Oerther, fielded and threw to first. While the throw appeared to be late, Miller was called out, prompting howls from the Milton dugout and its team’s fans in the stands. “They don’t need any help!” a Milton fan cried, heard clearly despite the cold, blustery wind whipping around USA Baseball’s National Training Complex.
The fan was right. TFA had Foster Griffin, who didn’t need the assistance. With his fastball, changeup and two versions of his slider working, Griffin impressed the 50-odd scouts in attendance, including at least five scouting directors, in tossing a complete-game, three-hit victory. He needed 102 pitches, walked two and struck out seven.
The last punchout came as Milton had its best rally. The Eagles bunched a one-out walk with a bunt single by Dalton Ewing and single by Dalon Farkas that loaded the bases. But Griffin overpowered Milton pitcher Alex Schnell, getting him to foul out to first, before striking out right fielder Clayton Vaught to escape trouble. He humped up to 90 mph, the hardest pitch he threw in the last two innings, and finished Vaught off with a 73 mph breaking ball.
“Today I had all three pitches working,” said Griffin, a Mississippi signee. “I’ve seen as a hitter what a changeup can do, so I have worked really hard on my changeup to give me a second secondary pitch.
“Coming from Orlando, I can’t remember the last time I pitched in sub-65 degree temperatures,” Griffin said. “It was definitely colder today, and my hands were cold and the ball was slick. It made me shy away from my curve the first two innings. I was able to find it later as well as the grip on my change.
Griffin’s fastball sat 88-91 mph for most of the game and never dipped below 86. At least three of his strikeouts came on changeups as he mixed his stuff well, with his changeup parking at 80-81 and his curve in the 73-76 mph range.
He was able to settle in after TFA took an early lead, scoring a run in the first and the second without the benefit of an RBI. Center fielder Adam Haseley, a Virginia commitment, tripled to lead off the bottom of the first, a liner down the first-base line. He then scored when Milton botched a pickoff play at third, Haseley sliding home after Miller couldn’t handle the throw home. Griffin added another run in the second, doubling to the left-center field gap, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt (which was also booted for an error) and scoring on another failed pickoff throw.
“We were able to limit our mistakes and take advantage of some they made,” TFA coach Scott Grove said. “We knew Milton was a really good team, and we were able to make some plays on defense. We got guys aboard, were able to execute, and Foster did a great job pounding the strike zone.”