No matter how badly things have gone for the West Virginia Miners, manager Tim Epling is not worried.
Three Lorain County pitchers limited the Miners to four hits, and West Virginia dipped back below .500 with a 6-2 loss in front of a disappointing crowd of 556 Saturday at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
West Virginia (2-3) has been outscored 22-5 in its three losses this season. The offense was again absent against the Ironmen, whose pitchers combined to strike out 12 Miners batters.
“Right off the bat, they were aggressive, they took it to us and they won,” Epling said.
Epling was more apt to give credit to Lorain starter Jake Post than he was to criticize his hitters.
Post, a freshman at Ohio State who was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 29th round of last year’s first-year players draft, established control early. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced and, in the second inning, worked around the only two hits he allowed.
The right-hander wound up striking out eight through 5 1-3 innings.
“I’ve got to give (Post) credit,” Epling said. “He was pumping it in there pretty good. We looked at his stats (from the spring) and we knew what we were getting. ... Our guys were having a hard time catching up to him.”
The only trouble Post faced came in the sixth, when he was ultimately chased.
He walked Preston Troutman to lead off the inning, then retired Dale Davis and Kenny May. But he walked Pat Kregeloh and Cameron Balough to load the bases, and Troutman scored when Robert Tavone walked — Post’s third consecutive base on balls.
Post was replaced by Vincent Frate, who struck out Brandon Koch to end the threat.
West Virginia starter Ronaldo Celis pitched well for four innings, but gave up a two-run homer to No. 9 hitter Anthony Nemer with one out in the fifth.
The Ironmen got to relievers Sam Hunter and Zach Woolcock for four more runs in the seventh. Troy Summers had a two-run single that was followed by run-scoring singles from Zach Ratcliff and Ryan Wonders.
West Virginia scored once in the bottom of the ninth off Lorain’s Zach Beaver. Balough led off with a double and his pinch-runner, Phillip Brandt, moved to third on an infield single by Koch an out later.
Griffin Moore walked with two out, and Brandt scored when Troutman walked with the bases loaded.
Dustin Nuckels, a 2010 Oak Hill graduate and Concord right-hander, struck out the side in the ninth for West Virginia. He has not allowed a run or a hit and has five strikeouts and two walks in four innings out of the bullpen.
Nuckels is on the full-time roster but might leave the team later this week because of a job opportunity.
The game had a controversial moment in the bottom of the second. After Josh Merrigan singled to left, Ratcliff, the Lorain first baseman, asked umpires to check Merrigan’s bat. Upon inspection, the umpires ruled it was not in violation.
The teams will meet again at 5:05 p.m. today, and Epling urges fans not to get discouraged by his team’s slow start.
“Our team is trying to find its identity,” he said. “That’s what we have to do, and that’s what we’re talking about. It’s only five games in. In this league, if you’re .500 right around half to three-quarters of the season, you’re going to be in the hunt.”
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LCI: 000 020 400 — 6 9 0
WVM: 000 001 001 — 2 4 0
LCI: Jake Post, Vincent Frate (6), Zach Beaver (9) and Derek Sprout, WVM: Rolando Ceris, Sam Hunter (6), Zach Woolcock (7), Dustin Nuckels (9) and Robert Tavone. WP — Post. LP — Ceris. Hitting — LCI: Isaac Smith 1-5, Troy Summers 1-4 (2 rbi), Zach Ratcliff 1-4 (rbi), Ryan Wonders 1-4 (rbi), Sprout 1-4, Tyler Bires 1-4 (2 runs), Billy Salem 2-4, Anthony Nemer 1-3 (hr, 2 rbi), WVM: Cameron Balough 1-3 (2b, run), Tavone 1-3 (rbi), Brandon Koch 1-4, Josh Merrigan 1-4, Preston Troutman (run, rbi).
Records: LCI: 3-1; WVM: 2-3.