Howard strikes gold with Gibbons' transfer

April 24, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

Many high school coaches dream about the day that a sensational athlete -- the kind that can turn a program around -- unexpectedly transfers in from another school.

Second-year Howard High baseball coach Matt Forsyth thought he had such a player last season. Instead, the star transfer turned out to be too old and was dismissed from the team after just one week.

This season Forsyth has the genuine article, however, a transfer treasure, junior shortstop Rusty Miller.

"You hear stories in preseason about how good someone is and you learn from experience not to get your hopes up, but the first time I saw him [Miller] play I knew we had someone special," Forsyth said. "He's our go-to guy and leader by example.

"Sometimes I have to tell him to ease up in practice because I'm afraid he's going to hurt himself. Two days before our first game he got burns on his hand from diving for balls on the gym floor."

Miller, a transfer from Cardinal Gibbons where he batted .330 as a sophomore in one of the state's toughest baseball conferences, is batting .464 (13-for-28).

His hits include two doubles, three triples and two home runs. He has eight RBIs, has scored seven runs and is 6-for-6 in stolen-base attempts.

"He's quick but the thing that impresses me most about him is the way he hits the ball," Forsyth said. "Even his outs are hard hit. In one game he went 1-for-4, but hit two line drives to the outfield that were caught."

As a shortstop, Forsyth thinks Miller is solid. "He has quick reaction time, outstanding range to both sides and has a feel for where the ball will be hit," he said.

Miller has 30 assists, eight putouts and five errors.

Miller, 6-foot and 180 pounds, has a strong enough arm so that he is also Howard's No. 3 pitcher.

The first 10 1/3 innings he pitched this season he allowed only five hits and no earned runs. He does have control problems, however. He walked 12 batters in those 10 1/3 innings.

His streak for unearned runs was broken Friday, however, when No. 7 Glenelg roughed him up for seven hits and seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

Howard's baseball program has struggled through lean times for several seasons. Last season the Lions were 1-18. And despite Friday's loss to Glenelg, this past week saw the Lions' talent begin to live up to its potential.

The Lions beat Oakland Mills, 21-8, Tuesday, and came back to topple Atholton, 16-8, Wednesday.

The win over Atholton was a shocker. No. 19 Atholton had lost just one game, and the Lions trailed 8-7 before erupting for nine runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Miller went 2-for-5 against Atholton and 3-for-4 against Oakland Mills. He had a homer, triple, single and three RBIs against Oakland Mills.

Miller thinks the Lions (3-7 overall, 3-4 county) can win at least eight games this season and have a strong team next season.

He knows what winning is all about because he played on Howard's county championship football team last fall.

In summer baseball he plays for the Elkridge Hurricanes, a team that finished fourth in the 14-team Baltimore Beltway League last season. Miller batted .667.

He keeps his batting eye sharp by taking a 100 swings per day using a batting machine his father installed in the back yard.

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