Editor's Note: This feature story was written prior to Scott's state tournament appearance on Thursday.
By PHIL PERRY
Coal Valley News
MADISON - As Scott High School's baseball team (28-7) entered state tournament play on Thursday versus Frankfort (26-5), no players on the Skyhawk squad had provided more clutch moments than seniors Nathan Kuhn and Isaac Miller this season.
"Something these guys have in common is their will to win," said Scott skipper Brett Kuhn. "Neither of them are concerned with individual accolades. They just want to beat you on the baseball field."
All that Nathan Kuhn has done as a senior is hit .560 to lead the county in batting average, while notching eight doubles, six triples and four home runs. Kuhn scored 40 runs on the season while anchoring the hot corner and, depending on who is on the mound, the outfield.
Miller, the fastest player on the team according to the coach, has made too many diving catches and difficult grabs bashing into outfield fences to mention, his toughness is part of his game. A gap hitter, he has mashed .404 with eight doubles, six triples and is the team leader in runs scored, which is bolstered by his 28 stolen bases. He hit a pair of dingers in the regular season and found his power stroke in the post season.
"I knew that baseball was it for me and I decided not to play basketball this past season," he said. "I focused on baseball. I think I made a good decision looking at where we are right now. We have an opportunity to win a state championship. Our team has really worked hard and focused to get where we are now."
Miller played summer and fall ball in preparation for his final prep season.
"During the winter, I worked out in the morning and hit more on the weekend for baseball, which is my passion."
Miller hopes to take the diamond on the college level and is weighing his options for the future, but for now, he's looking forward to taking centerfield at Power Park in Charleston.
Miller had four home runs in sectional play. The Skyhawks were down 3-0 early to Lincoln County and a two-run shot to left-centerfield energized his team. The fleet-footed Miller mashed another two-run home run in Regional play versus Point Pleasant that gave his squad some breathing room in a victory.
In a sectional game with Chapmanville, Miller scored from first on a bad throw to tie the game up in the sixth and then made a diving play to his right on a ball he didn't think he'd get to.
"I didn't think I was going to get there but I kept closing in on it and stretched out and then held on to it," he said. "It was my favorite moment of the year. It felt great to get to that ball."
Miller, who has gone 10-for-20 in the post season said that his approach at the plate is quite simple.
"While being disciplined, I tell myself that this pitcher can't get me out," he said. "I just feel that if you are thinking anything else but that, you're going to make an out."
The team carries the jersey of their late teammate Jonathan "Tater" Lester, who was killed in an automobile accident during the off-season.
"We take his jersey to every game with us and it hangs in the locker room," said Coach Kuhn. "He is a part of our team."
Both Miller and Kuhn are post 4.0 students and put as much work into their education as they do their sport. Kuhn, who plays for his father, refers to him as "coach" when talking about baseball.
"One thing I have improved on is working the count," Kuhn said. "I think I was able to settle into being the three hitter this year. Last year, I was moved to the three-spot in the lineup and I was getting myself out. This year, I've gone back to my leadoff hitter's approach at the plate and I'm taking my walks. It has made me a better hitter."
Kuhn, who has signed to West Virginia State University, said he and his teammate enjoy the moments where they can change a game.
"Isaac and I have become accustomed to those big moments and we both thrive in those situations, " he said. "We want the bat in our hands when the team needs us."
Kuhn goes through a routine before hitting and it is something that he embraces every day.
"It started in Little League when I'd kiss my bat, but it has evolved," he said laughing. "Now, I write out my two grandfathers' initials in the ground before I hit. I have my pawpaw Cabell and my pawpaw Kuhn with me with each at bat. It just makes me feel good and makes me calm. I don't feel alone in the box."
Kuhn began his prep career as a shortstop but he has been a catcher out of necessity and and outfielder but he feels he has found his true position.
"I love the hot corner," he said. "I like reacting to the ball."
Kuhn also comes in for relief on the mound and he was there in a 10-inning affair with Chapmanville that sealed the Sectional title - a familiar seat for him as he was the winning pitcher of record two years earlier with the sectional hardware on the line.
The Class AA Cardinal Conference champion Skyhawks understand the historical significance of their journey. Scott won the Class AAA crown in 1996 and were the Class AA state runner-up in 1999.
"We know what it means for our school and our community," Miller added. "We want to leave our mark on the program."
Kuhn supported his teammate's thoughts on the future.
"Coach always told us when we came into the program that we needed to leave it better than we found it and our team has really been mindful of that," he said. "A state championship would make that a reality for sure."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.