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NAC baseball preview: Numbers add up for Potsdam’s Ben Miller

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Athletes love the sports they play for several reasons, but rarely do you find an athlete who likes a sport because of mathematics.

Potsdam High School senior Ben Miller, who takes college classes at Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam, has been able to apply his knowledge of math to the sport of baseball.

“Part of (loving baseball) is the fact that it lends itself so well to analysis,” Miller said. “You can use statistics so well for it. (Statistics) are coming along in other sports, but they are not as developed. I love to read about baseball statistics and things like that. It’s helped me become a better player.”

Miller must have enjoyed his statistics form last season, when he helped Potsdam to 12-3 overall record, including a 10-2 mark in the Northern Athletic Conference Central Division, tieing Ogdensburg Free Academy for the title.

Miller, a pitcher and center fielder, was 6-1 last season with a 0.65 earned-run average. He struck out 63 in 43 innings and walked 14. He allowed only four earned runs. He hit .309 with two home runs and drove in 20 runs.

Sandstoners coach Chris Donah alternates Miller and fellow senior Will Coleman on the mound or in center field. The pair is similar in that both have parents who teach and both are already taking college courses while in high school.

“They are really, really smart,” Donah said. “They are analytical smart. That is great to have those kids out there. They know the game and they think through situations much better.”

The two pitchers are quite different in their style, but equally effective. Coleman throws faster, and has a good curveball. Miller relies more on offspeed pitches. Coleman is righthanded and Miller is a southpaw.

“I try to sneak a fastball by a hitter if I have thrown a few offspeed pitches,” Miller said. “It’s kind of reverse pitching. (Coleman’s) stuff is amazing. I stood in against him (in practice), and the one thing I noticed is he’s really great at spotting a curveball on the outside corner.”

Said Donah, “(Miller) has a lot of confidence in his offspeed pitches. He can throw it on a 3-2 count if he has too. He throws a lot of strikes and he has that lefty mentality. His ball moves a lot, it’s almost like an art.”

Donah has so much confidence in his pitchers that last year he stopped calling pitches from the bench and let them decide on their own how to set up hitters.

“He’s always willing to try different things,” Donah said of Miller. “He puts different movement on the ball. He sets himself up so well. His offspeed pitches make the fastball seem faster.”

Pitching isn’t the only area where Miller makes a contribution.

“He can run down anything in the outfield,” Donah said. “He’s got good wheels. He has a great arm from deep center field too. He’s not afraid to unleash it if he has to throw guys out.”

Potsdam lost 6-5 to OFA in 11 innings in last season’s Section 10 Class B title game, the second straight finals loss to the Blue Devils. The Sandstoners, who went to the state playoffs when this year’s seniors were freshmen, are hoping to get one last chance, especially with the pitching duo.

“It would be great to get back to (states),” Miller said. “I really want to re-live that experience.”

Miller is focused on the current season, but he also has to make decisions about his future soon, including a college choice. He is looking at St. Lawrence University, where he would probably be an outfielder.

“He could play at some level,” Donah said. “I don’t know where that’s going to be. Coaches like him. Even if he doesn’t make it as a pitcher, he’s a great outfielder and a great hitter.”

It should come as no surprise that Miller hopes to combine his two passions, mathematics and baseball, into a career.

“I’m interested in analyzing stats for a major league team,” Miller said. “That would be a great career.”

NAC OUTLOOK

Baseball has become one of Section 10’s strongest overall sports and this season could prove to be another where at least one team finds its way to a state final four.

OFA, which tied Potsdam for the Central Division title last year, reached the state semifinals. Both the Blue Devils and Sandstoners should be contenders if they reach the state playoffs because both teams rely on more than one standout pitcher. Potsdam has Will Coleman and Ben Miller, and OFA features Seth Pinkerton and Kinnon LaRose.

Massena and Malone also will figure into the Central Division mix.

Norwood-Norfolk has been the dominant East Division team in recent years, but Brushton-Moira and St. Lawrence Central also feature strong teams. The West also should be competitive with perennial winner Heuvelton being challenged by Harrisville and Morristown.

Some of the other top returning individuals include Brushton-Moira’s Jacob St. Mary and Adam Martin, Massena’s Zach Rusaw and Parishville-Hopkinton’s Mike Burns.

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