0

Perfect pitcher
Dacula's Miles driving force for Region 8 champs

Nobody's perfect, but Allie Miles has been pretty close during the 2008 high school softball season.

The Dacula pitcher has not only been a driving force behind the Falcons' (21-6) Region 8 championship in their return to Class AAAAA ball this fall, she's also been pretty close to - well, perfect.

In fact, up until Sept. 20, which is when she surrendered her first earned run of the season, she was pretty much automatic.

She's been more than pretty good since then as only three teams - Peachtree Ridge, Brookwood and Houston County - have managed to reach her for an earned run this season, and she's given up just six of them in 100 innings for a 0.42 ERA.

And while she was a solid pitcher in Dacula's run to the Class AAAA state sectionals a year ago, Falcons coach Tracy Keefer believes Miles (14-1) has really come into her own this fall.

"She's very mature for one thing," Keefer said of the junior right-hander. "She obviously has worked hard to master her pitches, but I think the difference is, she's learned to be aggressive and know when the right time to throw certain pitches.

"I can say (that) early on, you could see a difference in her confidence level on the mound. She's much more polished now."

The added year of maturity has come in handy for Miles and the Falcons in several tight ball games this season.

Perhaps no better example is Dacula's thrilling 1-0 win over Parkview in 10 innings during last week's Region 8-AAAAA tournament, which earned the Falcons a trip to the state sectionals in Woodstock, where they will open up play against Duluth today at 4.

Locked in a pitcher's duel with the Panthers' Desirae Thomas, who carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, Miles simply refused to back down and matched her pitch for pitch.

She threw a two-hit shutout and recorded 23 of her 30 outs via strikeout to give her team a chance to win, which they finally did on Kori Waugh's RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

"Nerve-racking is a good (way) to describe that game," Miles said. "In a situation like that, you've got to stay calm and keep your composure."

It also helps to trust your teammates, a quality Miles has shown quite a bit.

While she has a strong strikeout (161) to innings pitched (100) ratio, she is definitely not afraid to rely on her defense when opponents put the ball in play.

"Most of the credit goes to my defense," Miles said. "That always helps me. You've got to go into every game and focus on what's ahead of you."

But while Miles' strong emotional make up has been a major factor in her season, some technical adjustments have played a role, too.

She began taking lessons from pitching coach Lacey Ingram about this time last year, and she says she took those lessons to heart.

"Over the summer, she stayed connected to me," Miles said. "I worked a lot with her. She taught me a lot about my spins (on pitches)."

The combination of mental toughness and technical soundness could give Miles and the Falcons a lot to say about which of the four teams from the sectionals advance to the Class AAAAA state tournament next weekend in Columbus.

"She's a gamer," Keefer said of Miles. "When (a game) gets tough, she gets better, but we've got to be on top of our game (this weekend)."

SideBar: The Miles File

Who: Allie Miles

Sport: Softball

School: Dacula

Class: Junior

Favorite TV shows: House, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Desperate Housewives

Favorite sports team: Georgia Bulldogs

Favorite athlete: Peyton Manning

Favorite pitch to throw: Changeup

Noteworthy:

· Did not allow an earned run this year until Dacula's 19th game of the season, a 7-1 loss to Houston County.

· Only two other teams - county foes Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge - have managed earned runs off her, and she's allowed just six earned runs in 100 innings.

· She is 14-1 with a 0.42 ERA and 161 strikeouts for the season.