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Miller Sisters and Eagles Clinch GC8 Title

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BROOKSVILLE — Alivia Miller is only a freshman. But, already, there is some very strong evidence that the Springstead High pitcher just might be the best high school softball player in Hernando County.
 
Miller’s case for that distinction was on full display Thursday night as her pitching dominated early and late and, in the middle, her bat broke the game open as she led Springstead to a 3-2 victory against Nature Coast.
 

“If she’s not the best player in Hernando County, she’s certainly in the conversation,” Springstead coach Craig Swartout said. “She’s been doing everything for us all season.”
 
This time, Miller’s heroics helped Springstead, 13-4, clinch the mythical Hernando County championship and the very realistic GC-8 title in an eight-team conference made up of all five Hernando County schools, plus Crystal River, Lecanto and Citrus.
 
“Any time you look over at the other dugout and see (Nature Coast coach Jug Olmstead) over there, you know you’re going to go up against a well-coached team that is going to play you very closely,” Swartout said. ” I think this validates that we’re a pretty good team.”
 
A pretty good team with a great player, who is going to be around for three more seasons. Miller held the Sharks scoreless until the fourth inning and finished the night with eight strikeouts to bring her season total in that department to 93 in 55 innings. But it was Miller’s bat that broke the game open as the Eagles won for the sixth time in their last seven outings.
 
Springstead's Alivia Miller (FR) pitches a 3-2 win against Nature Coast. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead’s Alivia Miller (FR) pitches a 3-2 win against Nature Coast. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
 
Miller, who entered the game with a .471 batting average, came to the plate in the third inning after her sister, junior first baseman Ava Miller, and senior second baseman Liberty Savarese each singled. Miller then brought her team-high total in RBIs to 28 with a double to left field that scored both runners and gave Springstead a 2-0 lead. The Eagles followed that with an RBI single by Sarah Tipton to take a 3-0 lead.
 
“It seems like every time there’s been a key moment for us this season, Liv has stepped up and been in the middle of it all,” Swartout said.
 
But. even as Miller was almost dominant, Nature Coast found a way to keep the game tight. The Sharks, who fell to 11-12, pulled within a run on a two-run single by Lilyana Noguez in the fourth inning. After that, Miller took over. She held the Sharks scoreless in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings as she notched her sixth win of the season.
 
Although Miller struck out the first and last batters in the bottom of the seventh inning, she got a big boost from the teammate she often relies on most. With one out in the seventh, Nature Coast’s Athena Brown tried to get on base with a bunt. But that’s when another Miller stepped up. Charging from her position at first base, Ava Miller fielded the ball and made a strong throw to first base just in time to nip Brown.
 
“I rely on my teammates, Alivia Miller said. “And they all do a great job. But I rely even more on Ava. She’s my sister and my best friend and my No. 1 supporter and we’re always there for each other. When I saw the ball headed toward her, I knew she was going to make the play because that’s what she always does.”
 
The Miller sisters have been there for each other and their teams all season and that’s why the Eagles are playing so well with the playoffs fast approaching. When Alivia isn’t on the mound, she moves to first base and Ava comes on to pitch,
 
“It’s a good feeling because we can have either one of them on the mound,” Swartout said. “They both can pitch very well and, as you saw in this one, they both can hit. They are two very good players that are great competitors and they’ve done a lot for this team.”
 
Gianni Villari (SR) catcher for Nature Coast throws the ball back to the pitcher. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Gianni Villari (SR) catcher for Nature Coast throws the ball back to the pitcher. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Liberty Savarese (SR) sprints to first base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Liberty Savarese (SR) sprints to first base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Liberty Savarese (SR) hits a line drive for a base hit. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Liberty Savarese (SR) hits a line drive for a base hit. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Nature Coast's Kamryn Ross (FR) winds up a pitch against Springstead player. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Nature Coast’s Kamryn Ross (FR) winds up a pitch against Springstead player. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Alivia Miller winds up a pitch against Nature Coast player. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Alivia Miller winds up a pitch against Nature Coast player. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead players convene on the mound. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead players convene on the mound. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Nature Coast players convene near their dugout. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Nature Coast players convene near their dugout. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead's Haylee Brown (FR) celebrates a base hit. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead’s Haylee Brown (FR) celebrates a base hit. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Alivia Miller (FR) makes it to home base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Alivia Miller (FR) makes it to home base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead's Liberty Savarese (SR) covers second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead’s Liberty Savarese (SR) covers second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]

Patrick Yasinskas
Patrick Yasinskas
I am a sportswriter with more than 30 years' experience covering sports on all levels. I started out covering high schools, but have covered the NFL since 1993. I have won numerous awards, covered more than 20 Super Bowls and have been a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter three times. I began my career covering high school sports in Hernando County, which remains near and dear to me, for The Tampa Tribune from 1990 through 1992.
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