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Glen Rock just one win away from a Central League baseball playoff championship

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
717-505-5403/@yascores
  • Glen Rock earned a 10-2 baseball win over Mechanicsburg on Tuesday.
  • Glen Rock now leads the best-of-five Central League playoff title series, 2-1.
  • Game 4 in the series is set for 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Mechanicsburg.
Glen Rock catcher Jonathan Lugo and pitcher Conor Miller celebrate a successful inning against Mechanicsburg in Game 3 of the Central League Baseball Playoff Championship Series at Glen Rock Tuesday, August, 25, 2020. Glen Rock is one game away from the title, winning 10-2. Bill Kalina photo

GLEN ROCK – When James Wiercinski injured his ankle in Saturday’s opening game of the Central League baseball playoff finals, it was apparent that Glen Rock had an issue with its starting pitching.

Wiercinski is part of a trio of regular starters for "The Rock," including Game 1 starter Conor Miller and Game 2 starter Steve Cooke.

That injury left Miller to pitch again Tuesday evening in Game 3 in the best-of-five series opposite Mechanicsburg on just two days rest.

Normally that would not be ideal.

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For Miller, it was just fine and dandy.

The right-hander got a little help to get out of a first-inning jam before settling down against a potent Cardinals lineup. Miller handcuffed Mechanicsburg on three hits and two runs — both unearned because of a trio of errors in the seventh inning — to lead Glen Rock to a 10-2 victory.

"The Rock" leads the series 2-1 and can clinch the playoff title with a triumph Thursday in Game 4 in Mechanicsburg.

“After the first game I faced them, we knew that they liked to hunt fastballs,” Miller said. “So the plan tonight was to stay the hell away from that.”

Keep the Cards off balance: Miller used his off-speed offerings to his advantage. The Cardinals, who rallied for a 7-6 win in Game 1 on Saturday, were off balance throughout Tuesday's contest. Miller struck out five while walking four en route to a complete-game victory.

The Glen Rock starter knew that keeping the visitors off the scoreboard early was key. The Cards threatened early but were undone when Miller got a crucial double-play lineout courtesy of nifty play by veteran first baseman Dan Rhodes.

“Coming in tonight I knew that I had to have a clean first inning,” Miller said. “We had to get rid of any bad ju-ju, and fortunately Rhodes made a hell of a play at first. He made it and doubled the guy off first and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the night.”

For Rhodes, who has been a mainstay in the lineup for nearly two decades, his quick reaction was all about good timing.

Glen Rock runner Troy Miller beats the tag of  Mechanicsburg catcher Ryan Wentzel to score a late run in Game 3 of the Central League Baseball Playoff Championship Series at Glen Rock Tuesday, August, 25, 2020. Glen Rock went on to win 10-2. Bill Kalina photo

“They had something brewing,” Rhodes said. “And that just kind of stopped it on a dime.”

Fast start for Glen Rock: Miller’s teammates quickly pounced on Mechanicsburg starter Riley Shafer for three runs in the bottom of the frame to give the right-hander all of the run support he would need. For good measure, the home team put up a five-spot in the bottom of the fifth to all but clinch a very important win for the squad.

Glen Rock's offense was led by Troy Miller (three hits, three runs), Scott Merkel (two hits, two runs), Dan Rogers (three RBIs, hit, run), Trevor Walzl (two hits, double, two RBIs, two runs, walk) and Rhodes (hit, two RBIs). 

With a potential series-clinching Game 4 Thursday night, Conor Miller and his teammates are hoping the right-hander won’t have to throw again on short rest later this week. Miller is confident that Cooke will stay hot on the road.

“When James went down Saturday, I kind of turned to Cooke and said ‘you have the road games,’” said Miller, who pitched at home in Game 1. “And I expect that we’ll take care of business.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.