By STEVE KRAH
Robbie Miller experienced postseason as a head baseball coach at Greenfield (Ind.)-Central High School, helping the Cougars to an IHSAA Class 4A sectional title in 2017.
Miller, who led the GC program from 2015-18 and then assisted at New Palestine for the 2019, was hired at Knightstown (Ind.) Community High School for the 2020 campaign, which was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Knightstown won the 2021 Class 2A Heritage Christian Sectional crown, beating Triton Central 9-6 and Heritage Christian 7-4 for the right to play Saturday, June 5 in the Cascade Regional. The 17-12-1 Panthers meet Parke Heritage (15-10) in the second semifinal. The first game at 11 a.m. features University (21-9) against Centerville (23-5).
Miller has his team focused inward.
“I don’t care who’s in the other dugout,” says Miller. “I worry about us. If we do the things we’re capable of doing, we’ll be successful.
“Just be us and we’ll be fine.”
The Knightstown-Triton Central sectional game featured former Franklin (Ind.) College teammates as head coaches — Miller with his Panthers and Justin Bergman with his Tigers.
Miller called on senior workhorse Mason Muncy to take the mound against Triton Central.
“He threw a great game and he got big hits throughout the lineup,” says Miller of the comeback win. “We scored three in the first and gave up five in the top of the second.
“But the kids never quit.”
Muncy was able to pitch again in the Heritage Christian game. The Panthers faced sophomore Andrew Wiggins (an Indiana University commit) and were down 1-0.
Senior Ben Newby hit a two-run home run and senior 8-hole hitter Robert Porter produced two clutch hits for Knightstown.
Then there was senior Aaron Reagan.
“He might be one of the best baserunners I’ve ever coach,” says Miller of Reagan. “He ade a great slide that put us ahead 6-3 in the sixth. We executed a suicide squeeze on the next pitch (for a 7-3 lead).”
The Panthers fields a team with experienced seniors and a mixture of freshmen and sophomores. Junior Carson Smith is the starting shortstop.
Knightstown (enrollment around 360) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester).
TEC teams play each other one time in 2021 as it worked into their schedules.
With the most-recent title, Knightstown has won seven sectionals. Three of those came back-to-back-to-back (2014, 2015 and 2016). The Panthers were regional victors in 2015 and 2016, losing to eventual state champion Providence in the Plainfield Semistate.
Miller, who resides in Greenfield with wife Allison and daughters Ella and Abbi and works for Anthem, enjoyed his time as a volunteer coach at New Palestine (he is a 1997 graduate) with Dragons head coach Shawn Lyons.
“I learned a lot from him,” says Miller. “I had been coaching against him for like 15 years.
“New Pal’s a great program. (Lyons) does things the right way. He wants to win as much as anybody and he prepares better than any coach I’ve ever been around. His other assistants are phenomenal. They made me feel wanted from Day 1.”
Miller wasn’t looking for another coaching gig when he was told about the opening at Knightstown. A basketball official in the winter, he happened to be going to Knightstown a few weeks after learning about the opportunity. He was hired in January 2020 by Panthers athletic director Matt Martin.
When the season was taken away and workouts were then allowed in July, Miller took the opportunity and had 10 or more at each session while sharing athletes with football and basketball.
“I was still trying to get to know the kids when they said baseball was done (in March),” says Miller. “The good news is a lot them played travel ball and I tried to see as many games as possible.”
Miller’s assistant coaches are John Walters, Nic Murray and Jim Kayajan.
Knightstown had 20 players in uniform this spring. The junior varsity schedule was clipped because of COVID contact tracing.
The Panthers play on a field that’s part of a complex that’s just a few years old.
“It’s a really nice facility,” says Miller.
High school baseball is fed by Knightstown Youth Sports and a middle school program. Those Knightstown Intermediate School students use the old varsity diamond.