By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
A game that started well for the West Virginia Miners didn’t exactly end that way.
Yes, the Miners picked up a win, needing a four-run seventh inning to beat the Slippery Rock Sliders 9-6 on a dreary Friday night. The win raised the Miners’ lead in the Prospect League East Division to two games over the Chillicothe Paints, who lost 7-1 to Butler.
But there was some uncertainty in some spots after the game.
For one, Robert Tavone Jr. was penciled in as the starting catcher but was a late scratch because of an injury to his right wrist. It was unclear how long Tavone will be out, but with the recent exit of Jordan Parris from the team, West Virginia is left with only one catcher — Josh Galvan, who made his debut Friday night.
The injury does not affect Tavone when he throws.
“(Tavone) can’t swing the bat. There’s something going on there,” West Virginia manager Tim Epling said. “And we’re down to one catcher. ... We’ll get an MRI (today) and see what happens. We’re going to have to figure something out if the report is bad.”
West Virginia may also have lost one of its top hitters in Zach Woolcock. The infielder from Radford had an altogether horrible seventh inning at the plate. He fouled a pitch off his leg, then was hit in the head by a pitch from Slippery Rock reliever Tyler Wilson.
Woolcock stayed in the game, but after advancing to second when Galvan was hit in the right shoulder by the Sliders’ Kevin Becker-Menditto, he appeared to pull a hamstring one out later when Nick Paxton reached on a fielder’s choice.
Woolcock was then lifted for pinch-runner Dale Davis.
It was unknown after the game how much time Woolcock will miss, if any. Woolcock was voted last week as the starting third baseman for Wednesday’s Prospect League All-Star game.
Right-hander Brandon Koch was a late replacement for scheduled starter Evin Einhardt and started as if he was on course with team history. Koch, starting for the first time after having made 12 relief appearances, struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced. Gentry Kinsella walked with one out in the third but was thrown out trying to steal second before Koch struck out Tom Crimi to end the inning.
Koch was perfect in the fourth, but could not get out of the fifth. With one out, Ryne Clark doubled to the right field corner, then Max McDowell launched a two-run homer to left to pull the Sliders to 4-2.
Koch got another out but allowed two more baserunners when he was replaced by Vince Bartolone.
Epling said Einhardt will start tonight’s game. He said Einhardt was scratched because he threw a bullpen session Thursday and “I really don’t like throwing a bullpen the day before they (start).”
The Miners (26-15) took a 4-0 lead in the second, keyed by Kenny May’s two-run triple. Nick Paxton added a RBI double and later scored on Evan Potter’s groundout.
The Sliders (17-24) scored four runs in the sixth to go up 6-4. Clark drove in Cooper Mickelson on a groundout and then scored when McDowell — a freshman at UConn who joined the team Thursday — hit a triple to center field.
A run-scoring single by Aaron Lindgren drove in McDowell to make it 5-4. Lingren stole second and later third, and scored when Galvan’s throw sailed into left field.
Bartolone wound up getting the win despite giving up four runs, three of them earned, and five hits over 2 1-3 innings.
Kolin Stanley, making his season debut, pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth for the save.
Becker-Menditto, the league leader in saves, took the loss.
The teams will meet again at 7:05 p.m. today.
Notes: Former Miners catcher Clayton Prestridge watched the game from a seat behind home plate. The 2012 league batting champion will throw out today’s ceremonial first pitch ... There will be several promotions tonight, including Dickey’s BBQ Night and Military Night, with the Army National Guard giving away free T-shirts. The fireworks extravaganza originally scheduled for July 3 will follow tonight’s game.
— E-mail: gfauber