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Williamston’s Miller unshakable on the mound

By By EUGENE L. TINKLEPAUGH, Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Momentum was one-sided in a familiar contest of two conference rivals looking to advance in the NCHSAA Class 1-A state playoffs.
Southside found itself in the hole early, and it didn’t take Williamston much longer to bury its Atlantic Conference peers in Friday’s second-round playoff game.
The top-seeded Tigers (16-9) scored two runs in the first inning and secured three more in the fifth to blank the No. 2 Seahawks, 5-0.
Williamston benefited from pitcher Morgan Miller’s controlled, solid performance that kept the Seahawks grounded on the overcast afternoon. Miller allowed three hits in seven innings. She struck out nine batters and walked one.
Seahawks coach John Lohman said his team had a hard time getting used to Miller’s speed and control.
Seahawks pitcher Gabby Cilluffo was one of two Southside batters to register hits against Miller.
Cilluffo went 2-for-3. Her first at-bat opened the second inning with a double. Southside (14-6) was down 2-0 and hoping to put something together with Cilluffo’s line drive down the third base line. She reached third on a fielder’s choice.
But Miller dashed any momentum-stealing hopes with two straight strikeouts.
Cilluffo’s second hit of the game was the last lifeline for Southside, which found itself down 5-0 in the seventh. With no outs, she singled with a straight shot down the center. Cilluffo’s pinch runner was busted trying to steal second, and Tiger executioner Miller handled the rest. She struck out the next two batters to end the game.
From the mound, Cilluffo got behind in the count a few times, and struggled through the fifth inning where the Tigers scored its trio of runs. She allowed five hits, struck out six batters and walked five.
In the first inning, back-to-back doubles created the first two scores for the Tigers.
Lead-off batter Miller was walked and stole second.
With one out, Heather Jackson doubled to put Miller on third. Presley Roberson entered the batter’s box and crushed the ball into center field to bring in both Miller and Jackson for the 2-0 lead.
A costly error in the fifth inning led to thrree more scores for Williamston.
At the start of the fifth, Miller was walked. On the next play, Hillary Wynne reached on an error with a grounder that the Seahawks’ first baseman couldn’t recover, and Miller was given the leeway to dart around the diamond to third.
Southside’s defense got its first out of the inning with an infield fly out. Cilluffo walked the next batter to load up the bases.
Samantha Williams got a good piece of a Cilluffo pitch. Her sacrifice fly afforded Miller the running room to come home, making the game 3-0.
The two batters left on base followed Miller home on the next play when Cassie Harrell’s grounder skipped past the shortstop to bring the score to 5-0.
Hayes said his players came out with a mission in mind.
The Tigers now have that chance.
Williamston advances to the third round with Friday’s win where the team will face the winner of the Manteo-Pamlico match up. The third-round game likely will be held Tuesday or Wednesday, Hayes said.
Southside 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Williamston 200 030 x — 5 5 0
WP: Morgan Miller; LP: Gabby Cilluffo
Hitters: S — Kristen Ayers 1-3; Gabby Cilluffo 2-3 (2B); W — Heather Jackson 2-3 (2 2B, run), Presley Roberson 1-2 (2B, RBI, run), Cassie Harrell 1-3 (2 RBIs), Bailey Cowan 1-2.