Why he was chosen: With a roster full of freshmen and expecting a rebuilding year, Miller coached the Tigers to the PIAA Class A softball championship and the District 5 Class A title ... After losing their second game of the season, the Tigers went 13-1 over the next 14 games ... A 6-2 loss to Claysburg Kimmel in the ICC final seemed to show the Tigers weren't ready to make a deep run in the playoffs, but that wasn't the case ... The Tigers had wins of 5-1, 9-1 and 6-0 on their way to a fourth-straight District 5-A crown ... Games in states were closer, starting with two 2-1 wins before a 7-2 win against Chartiers-Houston in the semifinal ... Fannett-Metal then beat Southern Columbia, 1-0, in the title game.
On teaching young players: "The mistakes they made early, they didn't make later on," Miller said. "I was very proud of them. (Assistant coach) Rick Lauthers worked with the outfielders and I worked with the infielders. Sometimes we'd get frustrated, but I'd say, buddy, just remember we're starting with young girls. Then we'd perk each other up. It was the same with infield: you'd try to get them quicker, quicker, quicker and they'd make a bad throw. We just kept working, talked among ourselves about giving them time and they gradually grew to the end of the season. We don't growl at them - we don't yell. I never do that. I know when I played I'd get yelled at and you'd feel rejection and I don't think that's the proper way to handle young athletes, so we didn't do it.
On winning fourth straight District 5 title: "When we made it to the second leg of districts, I wasn't really getting excited yet," Miller said. "But when we made it through that game I knew we'd be in the district final. It was very important for me to get these girls a medal of some sort. We had a coaching motto, playing one game at a time, then we got the title and I couldn't have been more happy. Then we got to states and we kept the same motto."
On journey to state title: "Through that stretch, we had a lot of long trips," Miller said. "We got rained out one game after driving two hours to get there. But I noticed one game we got to St. Francis and a lot of teams got off charter buses and had fancy warm-ups. I got them to practice the next night and said that fancy buses and routines don't win ballgames. We are who we are and we're not there to put on a show, we're there to play ball. We're from a rural area and we're just going to go out and play our ballgame, let the chips fall where they may and, fortunately, it worked out well for us. We even had a couple fellas offfer a charter bus for the last game and we elected to do it the way we' d been doing it all along."
Supportive community: "The community support throughout was almost tearjerking," Miller said. "When we got back and there were all those people in their yards there to greet them. When I glanced up to stands at Penn State and all the white shirts covered the stands. And even when we got to the end of states, a lot of coaches and umpires from our end of the district were there and that meant an awful lot, too."
Favorite memory: "There were quite a few," Miller said. "When Morgan Burdge cracked a 2-run homer in one game, that was a big boost for the team and that was a big moment for me. We knew she could hit. But when she came close to the fence several times and finally cleared it, that was big. Jenna Rhodes, when she threw the first four innings of the first state game, I was super proud of her. I had a lot of faith in Jenna. I thought the split pitching with Blaire Lauthers might be an edge. But when they were working there, that was probably one of my highlights of the season: seeing both kids performing at their best as a joint attack. And that panned out so well.
"Also some of the girls, Amanda Laye picking up some nice ground balls. Melissa Zeger was almost flawless at first. She pulled out some real nice in-the-dirt catches. Our outfielders: the girls in the corners, when they catch some, that's special. You expect that from the older girls, but when the young girls do it, that's special.
"Then the girls on the bench, when they got a chance to shine, that meant a lot to me too.
"Across the board, every kid is awful precious. Even during practice, they'll do something that makes me think I'm getting through to them. But as far as the big moment, Dougherty, playing center and a team was pressing us, she threw a perfect strike to keep a runner from getting home. Then at states when Naomi threw two kids out by two steps - they were graveyard-dead out. Then Blaire, Burdge and Dougherty hitting home runs. When you see the other team's chins drop, it feels so good.
"Then at the end of the season, Blaire and Jenna hitting their strides. Then in the first state game, both threw offspeed pitches. We'd been working on that in practice that week, and both of them nailed girls where their eyes got big and they whiffed on the swing.
"Burdge had a double play at second this year where she caught a line drive and touched the runner who left first. I was like, man, this kid is really going to shine.
"Amanda Zeger, at first, she dug more balls out of dirt for first year girl - that was maybe as good as anything I ever had. Last year, our girl was really good at that. It was great for a freshman to come in and do that.
"Then toward the end of the season, Melinda Hammond was our designated player and she cracked one. She could have gotten a triple, but she missed first, tripped and fell flat on her face. But that run she brought in was the winning run and we were all laughing so hard. And there are two others. That umpire at states, I'll never forget the first batter in the last inning - he rung her up like they do in college. Very dramatic.
"And my freshmen girls that tried so hard throughout the season. Everytime they achieved what we tried to get through to them, the looks in their eyes - I'll never forget.
"And my last memory, the unity of the Fannett-Metal community when we came back, I'll never forget. If you were there, it was enough to bring a lump in your throat. When we pulled in the school, there were about 300 people. We were escorted in by firetrucks, then taken down the road by another group of firetrucks. People were in their yards with signs up. That's something the kids, and I know I, will remember forever."
Giving thanks: "I'd just like to thank everyone for all the support we were given throughout the season," Miller said. "People from the area, from our faculty, Greg Best keeping me up to date on everything happening at school, Jenny Lauthers took care of a lot of my paperwork for me, the school bus driver - he passed up a lot of stops to haul the girls around. It was just a complete community effort. We had a lot of ladies who took pictures. The T-shirt deal, they sold 280-some shirts in two evenings. And they all showed up to Penn State. It was just a great deal. The other coaches that give up their time, Roy (Middour) and Paige (Yocum). And Rick giving up a ton of time. It was the perfect deal.
"But especially thanks to my wife and my boy for being patient. That's a few seasons that I haven't been home. Without them being so patient, I know I'd have a tough time running up there every day from Mifflintown."
Name: Stewart Miller
Highlights: Won school's first PIAA championship; Won a fourth consecutive District 5 Class A championship.
Career record: 98-41 (.705)
Family: Wife Traci, daughters Stevie (23) and Randi (19) and son Sheldon (15).
Education: Graduated from Juniata High School and attended trade school.
Other experience: Served as a travel softball coach before starting at Fannett-Metal in 2007.