The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 30, 2013

Slippery Rock stuns Miners

Error-filled game looked more like a season-opener

BECKLEY — The official schedules —the one on the Prospect League website, the one hanging on the wall in the Linda K. Epling Stadium pressbox and even the pocket variety that’s in the wallets of baseball fans all around Beckley — have Tuesday's game listed as the season opener for the West Virginia Miners.

But Wednesday's contest looked much more like a debut for the defending Prospect League champions.

After playing an almost flawless game in a win on Tuesday, the Miners (1-1) committed four errors and made twice that many mistakes, showing the rust expected from a team full of new faces in a 8-1 loss to Slippery Rock for a series split.

“I don’t like losing, but sometimes a loss like this can be a good learning experience,” said Miners manager Tim Epling. “I don’t want the players to be afraid to fail. I saw some frustration, and it’s only our second game.

“They have added pressure because of all the success we’ve had in the past. I’m trying to get it all into perspective. What we did last year doesn’t matter. Right now, this team means everything.”

The Sliders (1-1) pounded every Miners pitcher they saw, putting plenty of crooked numbers on the board. The visitors broke a 1-0 Miners lead with a pair in the third and then added two more in the fourth, one each in the sixth and seventh and then really broke it wide open with two more in the eighth to end any hopes of a comeback.

The Slippery Rock pitching staff, meanwhile, kicked it into cruise control and pitched confidently with the run support. Silder pitchers struck out 13 Miners and allowed just five hits.

Four different pitchers took the hill for the visitors, but all found the same result. David Wilson (1-0) was credited with the win after allowing just one run on four hits over four innings pitched. Zach Place was even stronger, pitching three scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit while striking out seven, and Alex Watson and Kevin Becker-Menditto pitched a perfect eighth and ninth to close the door.

“I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to score more than one run,” said Epling, who didn’t have a single player record multiple hits. “We did not get a lot of base runners on. I think some of our guys were too anxious. The pitchers elevated the ball, and we swung at it. We can’t continue to do that, but that’s something we can work on.”

Slippery Rock used plenty of small ball to capitalize on the Miners’ mistakes. Just five of the Sliders’ eight runs were earned, and few of their 11 hits were actually hit hard. Bloopers, bunts and infield hits were more then norm.

Quinton Yocom (0-1) took the loss for the Miners, giving up four runs, two earned, on six hits and a walk through four innings. Marshall lefty Sam Hunter came on in relief and, despite striking out seven, gave up four runs on five hits and a walk. Jordan Pemble pitched the ninth, striking out two and not allowing a hit.

Leadoff hitter Lance Barkley led Slippery Rock at the plate, driving in a pair of runs and scoring another. First baseman Matthew Calhoun was 3-for-4 with a run scored.

“They were around the plate, so that’s a positive” said Epling of his pitchers. “We threw a lot of fastballs just to get our catchers a feel for it.”

Despite the shaky results, Epling is confident in his club as it hits the road for a two-game series with the Butler Blue Sox that begins tonight.

“It’s tough the first six or seven games,” he explained. “All my goal is right now is just to keep our heads above water. I think going on the road will help us gel.”

The Miners are still trying to get their full roster to Beckley. They saw several new faces filter in Wednesday night, although many of them weren’t in the lineup, and they’re expecting at least three more in the coming days. The situation is still so fluid that Epling was actually introduced to one of his new pitchers, Rolando Celis, just as he concluded postgame interviews.

“We’re trying to figure out who everybody is,” said the Miners skipper. “They’re sitting in the dugout and are saying, ‘Who’s this guy?’ Then we’re playing a game and have everything else going on. We’ve just got to get comfortable.

“I’m still learning the names too, and we’ve got to figure out the personality of this team.”

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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