The expectations out of Ozark’s camp are high for Greydon Miller’s senior season. But the Tigers weren’t sure how much they could count on their slugging right fielder over the first week of their season.
‘Miller time’ has arrived sooner than anticipated.
Miller belted his first varsity home run Friday as an Ozark highlight in the Tigers’ home-opening 7-5 setback at the hands of Jefferson City Helias.
In Ozark’s season-opener a week earlier versus Poplar Bluff, he was 3-for-4.
All this after he lost lost 15 pounds earlier this month while enduring a bout of mono.
“For a while, I was pretty sick,” Miller said. “I didn’t have an appetite, didn’t feel like doing anything and stayed in bed for most of the day. I definitely haven’t had stamina and strength. I’m slowly trying to build that back up to where I was before.”
Of course, in today’s world the first fear when Miller was sick was that he had COVID.
“We had trouble figuring out what it was,” he said. “I kept going back to the doctor and they would test for flu and COVID. Finally, they did a test for mono and figured out what it was.”
Miller was a shooting guard on Ozark’s basketball team over the winter and received word he had mono the week of Class 6 District 5 hoops action Feb. 28-March 5. After scoring 16 points against Kickapoo in a regular-season contest, he had to sit out Ozark’s District semifinal defeat to the Chiefs.
“When the doctor called and said the test came back that I had mono, obviously I was sad about not getting to play my last basketball game,” Miller said. “But I was optimistic and excited about coming out to play baseball this spring. That helped me get through it.”
The timing of Miller learning he had mono was also during the first week of baseball practices. That same week, the Tigers saw catcher Brock Dodd suffer a broken hand and pitcher Brock Sundlie underwent hernia surgery for an injury he dealt with during wrestling season.
Miller rejoined his baseball teammates two weeks ago and actually didn’t take long to feel comfortable with a bat in his hands.
“I went a while with no physical activity whatsoever. I was itching to play,” he said. “I’d just gotten back to practices, but my swing felt pretty good against Poplar Bluff.”
Miller’s home run against Helias was a towering two-run, seventh-inning shot over the left-field fence.
"At 6-foot-6 with long arms, he’s going to be able to run into one of those high (pitches), stay on top of it and drive it,” coach Justin Sundlie said. “He’s still trying to get his feet under him. He’s a month behind everybody else on his hacks and throwing. But he’s starting to find his stride and we’re excited about that because he can be a difference-maker for us, without a doubt. He’s the type of kid on a good day who can almost win you a game by himself.”
Miller wasn’t thinking home run.
“I was just going up with the approach we needed baserunners,” he said.
Miller’s homer was part of a stretch over the sixth and seventh innings in which Ozark had five of six batters reach base. But the Tigers’ bid for a comeback fell short.
With two outs in the sixth, Brady Dodd and Devyn Wright both singled and Kannon Little walked. Cooper Buvid followed up with a fly out to the warning track in center field.
Sundlie noted Buvid swung at a high pitch out of the strike zone.
“It was ball three,” Sundlie said. “With the bases loaded and a 2-0 count, we need to be looking for a better pitch to hit. We’d won games getting away with things like that. But today we were exposed a little bit, as far as what we need to fix to be a more competitive team.
“We chased a lot of pitches out of the strike zone,” he added. “Lesson learned. If you’re going to do that, you’re not going to beat a team like that. (Winning pitcher Sam Wyrick) had a good day, but we helped him out.”
Wyrick struck out 13 in four and one-third innings. Reliever Brandon Scheulen fanned three.
Compounding Ozark’s lack of discipline in the batter’s box were six Tigers errors in the field.
“Nobody stepped up to say, ‘I’m going to make this play to get us out of this,’” Sundlie said. “Sometimes, you get in a funk and lose momentum. We were asking too much from (losing pitcher Brody Baumann). Tip your hat (to Helias) for coming down here and beating us. But you look at the boxscore and feel like you beat yourself, as well.”
Baumann struck out five over five innings.
At the plate, Baumann singled to lead off the seventh prior to Miller’s home run, as part of his three-hit afternoon. Buvid had two hits.
Helias (1-2) ventured to Kickapoo on Friday night and fell to the Chiefs 8-7.
Ozark visits Kickapoo on Monday in a game that was originally slated for this past Wednesday.
Helias 7, Ozark 5
Helias 020 230 0 - 7 6 0
Ozark 200 010 2 - 5 9 6
WP - Wyrick. LP - Baumann. HR - Miller.