Spartan shortstop Alex Amaral tags out Alex Caskey of Earlham attempting to steal second base. Exira-EHK senior Cole Bruns pitched a five-inning four-hitter in his first varsity start Friday night, striking out eight as the Spartans beat Earlham 11-1. Exira-EHK’s Cole Madsen slides home safely on Cole Burmeister’s two-run single as Earlham catcher Gavin Boyle attempts to handle the relay throw. Spartan senior Cole Bruns (15) also scored on the play during Friday night’s 11-1 victory. Spartan sophomore Cole Burmeister fields a ground ball near second base. (Photos by Mike Oeffner)

Miller’s Spartans rout Earlham, stay unbeaten

 ELK HORN -- Taking over for a local legend isn’t easy, but the process has certainly been a smooth one so far for new Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton baseball coach Trevor Miller.
 Miller’s Spartans stayed undefeated Friday night with an 11-1, five-inning rout of Earlham, then improved to 10-0 Saturday by beating a pair of 3-A teams (Atlantic and Perry) in the Atlantic Tournament. They lead the Rolling Valley Conference by a half-game over Ar-We-Va with a mark of 6-0.
 Miller, who became the high school principal and superintendent at Exira-EHK on July 1, 2016, accepted the head baseball job during the school year following last year’s resignation of Tony Petersen, who won 513 games during 32 years with Elk Horn-Kimballton and Exira-EHK.
 Petersen was determined to leave the next head coach a veteran group of players for their first season, and Miller has inherited just such a roster with seven starters back from last year’s 13-7 campaign.
 Miller said that he asked Petersen multiple times if he wanted to change his mind and return for one more year, but his decision was made.
 “He (told me), ‘I said I wasn’t going to leave the cupboard bare and I’m not. You’ll have a good group of kids that will work hard and your seniors will lead,’ and they do,” said Miller. “Coaching (32) years and his success... I just try to build from it. He has these kids where they know a lot of the small ball fundamentals.”
 Much like Petersen, Miller also likes to play small but with a more aggressive style on the base paths. The Spartans stole seven bases in Friday’s non-conference win - two each by Tyson Partridge, Cole Bruns and Cole Burmeister - and took advantage of five Earlham errors. The fifth Cardinal error was an overthrow to third on Burmeister’s second steal, allowing him to score the 11th run and end the game by the mercy rule.
 Spotted a 3-0 lead after two, senior Cole Bruns made his first varsity start a good one for Exira-EHK. Bruns (1-0) pitched a five-inning four-hitter, walked three and struck out eight, facing more than four batters in an inning just once.

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