Are the West Virginia Miners’ hitting woes over?
It’s beginning to look like it.
The Miners pounded nine hits Thursday in a 7-2 victory over Richmond (Ind.) at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
That’s after they had eight hits — including several of the clutch variety — in a 5-3 win over the RiverRats Wednesday.
“It’s momentum. I think confidence has a lot to do with it,” manager Tim Epling said. “On paper, all the kids could hit in college. But they came here, saw all our accolades (two consecutive Prospect League championships), and they put too much pressure on themselves.”
While the pitching has been generally solid, the Miners’ bats struggled for most of the season. Now they’re on a five-game roll.
“I’m happy. We’re starting to get production from the guys we need to,” Epling said. “That’s the key for us. You can’t rely on the same two or three guys all the time.”
Case in point is West Virginia first baseman Paul Trenhaile, who doubled in the sixth inning and blasted a solo home run to right field in the seventh.
“That was my first one,” said Trenhaile, a Hannibal, Mo., native who will be a senior for Truman State University. “I hit four home runs last year and two my freshman year, but I didn’t have any this year.”
Epling probably enjoyed the home run as much as Trenhaile.
“Paul was struggling early on and now he’s starting to get more consistent. It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Epling said. “He is exactly what you want from a player as far as doing what you want him to do.”
The Miners never trailed as they improved to 14-12 on the season. They’re currently in third place in the East Division, three games behind leader Chillicothe and a game and a half behind Butler.
David Martinelli doubled and Mike Brosseau singled to drive in runs in the first inning. Brosseau was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a single by Westyn Baylor in the fourth inning to make it 3-0.
Baylor had another key play early, making an over-the-shoulder catch in right field of a liner by Richmond’s Luke Cureton that probably saved two runs.
The Miners added two runs to their lead in the sixth on run-scoring hits by Grant Massey and Brian Perkins.
Ryan Lavoie (2-2) pitched the first five and two-thirds innings for the Miners. Richmond (10-14) scored a run off him in the fifth on a fielder’s choice and also plated a run off reliever Cody Pope in the seventh on a triple by Michael Paez.
Reliever Trey Gonsalez pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game.
“If we can get out of the sixth or seventh inning and be ahead, I really like the way our bullpen matches up with the hitters we’re putting them against,” Epling said. “They just have to do what they’ve been doing and things will work themselves out.”
West Virginia will close out its series with Richmond at 7:05 tonight at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
— E-mail: dstillwell
RR: 000 010 100 — 2 7 1
WVM: 200 103 10x — 7 9 0
RR: Adam Manner, Sean Safko (5), Chad Whitmer (7) and Jake Hand, WVM: Ryan Lavoie, Cody Pope (6), Trey Gonsalez (8) and Charlie Padilla. WP — Lavoie (2-2). LP — Manner (0-3). Hitting — RR: Michael Paez 1-5 (2 rbi, 3b), Brendon Neel 2-4 (2b), J.D. Rainwater 1-4, Joe Schrimpf 2-3 (2 r, 2b), WVM: Grant Massey 1-4 (r, rbi), Ryan Perkins 2-3 (r, rbi), David Martinelli 1-2 (r, 2 rbi), Zach Woolcock 1-4, Paul Trenhaile 2-4 (rbi, 2 r, 2b, HR), Westyn Baylor 1-3 (r, rbi)
Records: West Virginia Miners (14-12); Richmond RiverRats (10-14)