By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
One night after getting one-hit by last place Lorain County, the West Virginia Miners were home — the exact place manager Tim Epling felt they needed to be.
Today, the home fans could witness another piece of success in the Miners’ short history.
Three West Virginia pitchers combined to limit Butler to five hits in a 4-0 win Saturday at Linda K. Epling Stadium. The win moved the Miners one step away from clinching the Prospect League East Division championship.
Mathematically, the Miners’ magic number is three. However, a win today would give West Virginia the division championship by virtue of winning the season series with the second-place BlueSox.
A win today and then any win in its final six games would give West Virginia the title outright.
“I think it was refreshing for us to get back home,” Epling said. “This is the thing I hope (fans) understand: Our guys love playing in front of people. When we have a decent crowd and we have people here who are supporting them, they play better. Everybody does.”
The team responded to being back home with another shutout. Starter Rolando Celis, middle reliever Brandon Koch and closer James Woods combined for West Virginia’s league-leading 10th shutout of the season.
Celis (2-3) worked 5 1-3 innings, giving up all five Butler hits while striking out five and walking two.
It wasn’t total dominance, however. Butler, which leads the league in hitting, put 11 runners on base — but stranded all of them.
The Miners (35-18) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Doug Votolato led off with a double, moved over on Kenny May’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a sac fly by Pat Kregeloh.
They added two more runs in the fifth. Cameron Balough doubled with one out and went to third when Dale Davis reached on an error. Tyler Wilkins then bunted to score Balough and reached safely, taking second on a throw to third by catcher Alex Jurich to gun down Davis.
Wilkins scored on a single by Evan Potter.
Zach Woolcock led off the seventh with an infield single and went to second on a Balough sac bunt. Davis then beat out a single to put runners on the corners with one out.
Wilkins then hit a ground ball to shortstop. Davis was forced at second, but his slide helped disrupt a double play — Wilkins was safe at first and Woolcock scored to make it 4-0.
“He slid hard, straight, did exactly what you are supposed to do,” Epling said. “That kept them from (turning) a double play, and going from a three-run lead to a four run lead is huge.”
Potter made a spectacular play at shortstop to keep Butler (30-23) off the board in the fifth.
With two out and runners on second and third, Matt Peters, the BlueSox’s top hitter, hit a ground ball up the middle. Potter fielded the ball, spun and fired to first. The throw was wide, but first baseman Griffin Moore was able to stretch and keep his foot on the base to end the inning.
Robert Hawkins (3-2) took the loss, allowing seven hits and four runs, three earned over 6 1-3 innings.
Evin Einhardt (3-1, 0.98) will start for the Miners today against Butler’s G.J. Senchak. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m.
“We’re right there and right where we need to be,” Epling said. “We need to stay consistent, and we need to stay hungry.
Notes: Before the game, Miners owners Kay and Doug Epling presented the BlueSox with a plaque in remembrance of former Butler pitcher Andrew Revello, who died July 10 as result of injuries he sustained in a June 1 auto accident. The plaque will be given to Andrew’s parents, Carrol and Mike ... Miners outfielder Kaeo Aliviado will go back to his Hawaii home Monday. The outfielder currently leads the league with a .370 batting average and could still qualify for the batting title at season’s end ... Jurich was ejected before the start of the bottom of the eighth by home plate umpire Ron Runnels. He will be unable to play today. ... Koch struck out three batters and is now tied for third in the league with 51 on the season ... Five of the league’s six games on Saturday were shutouts.
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