By Cam Huffman
A look at the Propsect League standings gives a clear picture of just how important today’s doubleheader between the Chillicothe Paints and the West Virginia Miners at Linda K. Epling Stadium will be for both teams.
Chillicothe (8-6) holds a one-game lead over the defending Prospect League champion Miners (7-7) in the East Division, and after a rainout Thursday, both games of a two-game set between he two budding rivals will be decided today, with the first game beginning at 5:05 p.m.
But the game means much more than standings and bragging rights for Miners head coach Tim Epling. Still trying to feel out his new club — which is void of returnees from last year’s championship squad — Epling expects to learn a lot about his players today.
“I really don’t know what I have right now,” said the Miners skipper. “I’m still trying to figure out what the kids’ strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t know yet. I’m talking to the coaches, and hopefully we can find a good group of guys that knows their roles.”
Epling has seen a couple of leaders begin to emerge.
Pat Kregelogh, a junior infielder out of Shippensburgh University is the currently Prospect League Player of the Week and is hitting .304 with four doubles, a home run and a team-best nine RBIs. He’s also a big factor on the mound, where he won his only start, allowing just two earned runs over 6 1-3 innings pitched.
Kregeloh’s skills, though, aren’t unique. Epling said he’s already discovered that one of the strengths of the 2013 Miners will be their versatility.
“We have such an athletic team,” he explained. “We can move people in and out. We move four or five guys all around. They’re good ball players. They can play second, third, short. That gives us some options.”
Epling is also finally playing with a complete roster, as all of the players have made their way to Beckley. One, University of Hawaii outfielder Kaeo Aliviado, has made an immediate impact.
He’s played in only four games but has a hit in each of them. He’s batting .429 with five runs scored and a pair of RBIs.
Zach Woolcock is hitting .357 with eight RBIs in nine games, and Cameron Balough has 10 hits and four RBIs in 28 official at-bats.
Evan Potter just arrived in Beckley from San Diego State on Monday, and he’s already made some spectacular plays at shortstop.
The Miners, as usual, seem to have some talent. What they’re trying to find now is consistency.
After going 2-5 in its first seven games, West Virginia has gone 5-2 since to even its record. But the Miners are still making more mistakes than Epling would like to see and their learning to do the little things that he expects.
“Hopefully those are just stepping stones for what we need to do,” said Epling, who watch his team’s three-game winning streak end with a loss to Slippery Rock Wednesday night. “I think the guys now understand that anybody in this league can beat anybody. So you have to be ready to play. You’re not going to have your A-game all the time, but you have to find ways to win, regardless. That’s what we have to learn how to do.”
Tonight will be Faith and Family Night at the ballpark. Admission will be free for anyone presenting a church bulletin. Coal miners will also receive free admission as part of Miners Appreciation and Friends of Coal Night, which was originally scheduled for Thursday. A miner certification must be presented for admission.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.