Lee's Miller getting it done behind plate

Travis Miller and the Robert E. Lee Red Raiders continue their Class 5A bi-district playoff series against A&M?Consolidated Friday in Waco. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Robert E. Lee senior Travis Miller received the final warm-up toss from pitcher Zach Flanagan, rose up and fired the ball to second base.

As Lee infielder Ross Himes snagged it, a very interested observer clicked a stop on his watch.

A&M Consolidated’s first batter of the game, Ford Moore reached on a single.

Moments later, Miller was called into action.

Moore looked to have gotten a good jump off Flanagan, but as he began his slide into second, shortstop Douglas Kinsey had already received a cannon throw from Miller and tagged him out.

“They must have thought they could get to him,” Lee coach Mike Pirtle said on Consolidated’s aggressive base running. “It worked out well for us. He stepped up to the cause right off the bat and threw that guy out and made a statement.”

Miller is enjoying his first year as REL’s starting varsity catcher after spending last year as an understudy of sorts to Jimmy Landes (now at Baylor). In his sophomore season when Landes missed his junior year through injury, Miller backed up Zach Cannon.

“He’s waited his turn and has had a great year,” Pirtle said. “We’ve had a line of great catchers come through here and he’s stepped up this year and done a great job.”

As for his prowess throwing out runners trying to steal, Pirtle estimates he’s 50 percent or above.

Miller has an academic scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, but admits success throwing out baserunners is all about not thinking at that crucial moment.

“Whenever there is a guy on first, you know there’s always a chance and it kinds of just starts clicking,” Miller said. “Through the year, I’ve noticed the less I think about it, the easier it gets. Whenever I start worrying about it (it doesn’t work). I just need to get up, see him running and let it fly.”

Miller began catching as a youngster and changed positions before getting back behind the plate during his sophomore year at Lee. After being used primarily in spot duty last year, Miller has started nearly every game for the Red Raiders.

He also bats cleanup and played a role in Lee taking the lead Wednesday with an RBI double and RBI single in his first two plate appearances.

The two hits raised Miller’s average to .315 with 18 RBIs.

“He struggled a little bit in district hitting, but he threw a lot of guys out,” Pirtle said of Miller. “Then (Wednesday) he hits a line drive over the center fielder’s head to make a statement and hits a ground-ball RBI another time to put us ahead.

“He’s really stepped his game up in the playoffs.”

The Red Raiders lost Game 1 of their best-of-three Class 5A bi-district playoff series and now face two must-win games today against Consolidated.

Miller has already decided that he will end his baseball career after high school and pursue physical therapy in college with a major in biochemistry or biology.

A loss today means that next chapter begins.

“It’s bittersweet because baseball has been a part of my life for a long time,” Miller said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet but when that day comes, it’s going to be a hard pill to swallow.

“It’s been a good ride.”

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