By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
While the entire West Virginia Miners roster will be new — except for pitcher Kolin Stanley, whose arrival will be later than expected because of a bout with tendinitis — the players are definitely no strangers to high-caliber baseball.
Take Josh Merrigan, for instance. The left-handed-hitting outfielder was recently named Rookie of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Georgia State freshman finished his first season with a .353 batting average while driving in 36 runs and scoring 52.
Merrigan also had 16 doubles, five triples and four homers, and was never caught in 12 stolen base attempts.
The Marietta, Ga., native led all freshmen in the CAA in average, hits (84), RBIs, runs, total bases and stolen bases. His average, hits and runs are school freshman records.
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The inability of ambidextrous pitcher Ryan Perez to play for the Miners because of injury may be a disappointment, but manager Tim Epling still has two of Perez’s teammates who played key roles in one of Judson University’s most successful seasons.
First baseman Cameron Balough started all 63 games for the Eagles and led them with a .361 batting average. He also smacked 20 doubles and hit five home runs, and he finished the year with 76 RBIs.
Judson’s closer, right-hander Jordan Pemble, was 2-2 with a 3.32 earned run average and had nine saves. He made 20 appearances, 18 out of the bullpen. In one of his two starts, Pemble tossed a complete-game shutout.
The Eagles, keyed by an 18-game winning streak they rode into the postseason, won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships. They advanced to the NAIA National Tournament, where they went 2-2, including a loss to York that prevented them from playing in the NAIA World Series.
Judson finished 46-17, falling one win short of tying the school record for wins in a season that was set by last year’s team.
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The new faces won’t just be between the lines this summer.
Jimmy Mullins will take over the hitting coach duties from Steve Crosier, who has returned to professional baseball and will spend his summer with the Princeton Rays. A Delaware native, Mullins is an assistant under legendary West Virginia State head coach Cal Bailey.
Gary Pollard is the team’s new director of marketing and promotions. He brings 20 years of marketing experience to the position. He also is a singer/songwriter and is the music pastor at Freedom Ministries in Daniels.
Aaron Payne will be the new radio voice of the West Virginia Miners, replacing the one and only Dave Traube. Payne graduated from Marshall University with a degree in broadcast journalism. His work has been acknowledged by the National Broadcasting Society, College Broadcasters Inc. and the West Virginia Associated Press, among others.