Millers slip past Oilers in key District 7 East tilt

CROWLEY – When the Crowley Millers needed it most, Blaine Richard came through in the clutch.

Richard lined a two-out single to right center field in the third inning Thursday night to drive in two runs and that proved to be the eventual game winner in the Millers’ 3-1 victory over the visiting Eunice Oilers in a pivotal American Legion District 7 East contest at Miller Stadium.

The victory sent the Millers to 5-1 in league play and put them one-half game ahead of the Oilers (4-1) in the league standings.

“Timely hitting, that’s what it’s about,” said Millers’ coach Timmy Robichaux following the contest. “When you play teams with quality pitching, especially left-handed pitching, it’s about executing - getting people in scoring position and getting a timely hit and Blaine’s hit was huge. And it was an extra base hit which allowed us to not only score the lead runner but score the runner at first base also.”

Richard, who grounded out to second base in his first at bat, stepped to the plate with runners at first and second following a fielder’s choice by Justin Desselle and a single to left field by Brian Broussard. The LSU-Alexandria signee then took a 1-0 fastball on the outer half of the plate and lined it to the right center field gap to plate both runners.

Until the third inning, Eunice hurler Austin Young was flawless, sitting the Millers down in order the first two frames.

“Austin did a great job for us tonight,” said Eunice coach Fred Fruge. “He did enough to win. He kept us in the game. But it doesn’t matter who is on the mound, we have to get more than one run.”

Crowley’s Ryan Leonards was equally as impressive on the mound.

Leonards struck out nine in six innings of work and limited the Oilers to just four hits.

Martin Seemion gave the Oilers their lone run of the game in the sixth inning when he hit a one-out line drive that cleared the right field wall to cut the lead to 2-1.

Leonards then got out of the inning when Tyler Fontenot grounded out and Stuart Turner struck out.

“Ryan set the tone for us by coming out and throwing a great game,” said Robichaux. “He located well all game. The home run he gave up was actually a good pitch; the guy was just able to put a good swing on it.

“And he was able to limit his pitch count (64 pitches) which is really going to help us coming back next week when we play them again. It almost puts him in there to be able to throw again which might be what we need.”

The Millers added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Austin Robichaux doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Paiton McBride.

“Any time you can hold your opponent after scoring or come back and pick back up the run that you gave to them, it’s huge,” said coach Robichaux. “In the game of baseball, especially against good teams, one run can definitely be the difference in whether you win or lose.”

Austin Robichaux took the mound in the seventh and got two groundouts before ending the game on with a strikeout, the 10th of the night for the Millers’ pitching staff.

““We didn’t have an opportunity to put anything on tonight,” said Fruge. “We didn’t have an opportunity to put on a bunt, it was just that kind of game for us. We didn’t have a chance to make a whole lot happen.”

The Millers banged out seven hits, all off Young.

Leonards led the charge with two hits, including a double, while Richard doubled and had two RBI. Robichaux also had a double and McBride, Eric Speer and Broussard each singled.

Turner paced the Oilers with two doubles. Seemion homered and Jacob Fontenot had a single.

“They had three more hits than us and they were timely, big hits,” said Fruge. “We knew this was going to be a close game and we’ve won some close ones this year. We had the big hits in those games and tonight, we didn’t.”

The Oilers will get another crack at the Millers on Monday when the two squads square off in Eunice at 7 o’clock. The contest is a makeup of a game that was rained out earlier in the season.

“I’d like to have a little more rest, but it’s a rainout so we have to get the games played,” said Fruge. “But Austin (Young) didn’t throw a whole bunch of pitches so he could be ready to throw again. He wants the ball so we’ll see how he feels. He’s the only lefty I have so we’ll use him Monday one way or another, whether he starts the game or finishes it.”

Regardless of who’s on the mound, Robichaux knows his squad is in for another tough game.

“It will be another battle,” said Robichaux. “They have quality arms and so do we so I think it’s going to come down to who executes and who gets the timely hits and that’s what we did tonight.”

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