By Zach Shugan
ROSWELL, Ga. — It hadn’t been the strongest of seasons up to that point for either Milton or Roswell, but that didn’t mean a thing. Not to the coaches and players duking it out on the field and not to the rowdy students and parents shouting in the stands.
The Eagles and Hornets, along with Alpharetta, entered the final week of the regular season tied for fourth place in the region. With Milton and Roswell squaring off Tuesday night at John P. Coen Sr. Field, the winner would take a leg up in the race for the region’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Milton rose to the occasion, as the Eagles tallied 10 hits and Charlie Nemeth (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) tossed a gem to beat Roswell, 6-1, in a game featuring a playoff-like atmosphere. With their victory and Alpharetta’s loss at Cherokee shortly after, the Eagles secured a spot in the state playoffs for the fourth season in a row.
“We’ve talked a lot about [making the playoffs]. We really set our sights on that,” Milton head coach Jeff Heusing said. “I think the biggest thing is we really tried to identify who we were this year. We knew that we probably were in a spot where we weren’t going to win a region championship, but our goal all along has been to get in the playoffs. Tonight was important, and they definitely knew the importance and significance of it. For them to really come out and catch fire right at the beginning and set the tone, that’s them. They did a fantastic job.”
As for Nemeth and his performance on the mound, Heusing had plenty to say about the senior, at one point fighting off tears.
“Charlie’s been fantastic. I told that kid I really love him. He’s just a great kid. He’s not a flamethrower. But he never ever is down. I couldn’t think of a better kid to put in this spot tonight. We got in a little jam early and got a little excited. We had to re-focus, and he’s that kind of kid I know can handle moments like that. He wasn’t getting the calls, but we talked between innings and stayed focused. And he really stared to settle in. I love that kid. I told him ‘I’m really going to be sad to you go.’ The kid smiles every day.”
Milton used a big first inning to take control early against Roswell. The Eagles scored three runs in the top half of the inning, as Michael Alvarez drove in two runs on a double and Reilly Buckman drove in Alvarez two at-bats later with a single.
Roswell scratched one across on Nemeth in the bottom of the first inning thanks in part to a controversial call by the umpires, but that would be the only run the Hornets scored all night.
Milton added to its lead with one run in the fourth inning coming off a single by Patrick McCavitt. The junior shortstop drove in another run in the sixth inning, as Andrew Vislusky scored on a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-1 game. The Eagles’ final run of the night came later that inning off a poor throw to first base on bases-loaded ground ball by leadoff hitter Moses Lim.
As a four seed in the 7A state tournament, Milton (7-20, 4-10) will be on the road at one-seed Mill Creek (19-9, 9-1) in the first round Apr. 29-30. In the Eagles’ most recent trip to the playoffs in 2019, they were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Mill Creek.
Roswell (7-21, 3-11) will cap off its 2021 season on Thursday against Alpharetta (7-18, 3-11). This marks the second year in a row the Hornets will miss out on the state playoffs and the first time for Alpharetta since 2017.