The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 21, 2014

Yocom back, ready to go for Miners

BECKLEY — Only three members of last year’s Prospect League championship team will be back for the West Virginia Miners this summer. One of them is pitcher Quinton Yocom, and he is anxious to get back at it.

Yocom was the first of this year’s players to report to Beckley, arriving in town late Tuesday afternoon. His college team, Carson-Newman, did not qualify for its conference tournament, so he has been inactive since the middle of April.

By now, Yocom is ready to start pitching again.

“Going back to last year, when we won (the title), I’m anxious to be back,” Yocom said Wednesday while watching a middle school playoff game at Linda K. Epling Stadium. “I improved a lot last summer, and I’m hoping to do the same this year. ... That was my first big championship. It was a blast. The long season paid off, it really did. It was a long season, but that reward at the end is what made the season great.”

Yocom, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, played a significant role in the Miners’ march to a second straight league championship. He was 4-5 with a 2.32 earned run average in the regular season, but it was his only start of the playoffs that stood out.

Working against the Chillicothe Paints, Yocom pitched eight shutout innings. He struck out eight and walked three and allowed only three hits as the Miners won 3-0 to win the East Division championship.

The Miners swept the championship series from the Quincy Gems, winning the title in a season that got more frustrating as the playoffs approached.

“It was kind of hard,” Yocom said. “All of a sudden a catcher leaves. Or one of our pitchers leaves. It’s hard to try to keep the same routine. But a lot of guys stepped up last year. That’s baseball. You get opportunity and you’ve got to shine with it.”

The challenge of pursuing another title isn’t the only thing that has Yocom ready to go.

The Eagles were expected to be one of the top teams in the South Atlantic Conference but finished a disappointing 21-25. Their season ended with a loss to Catawba on April 18, but Yocom hasn’t pitched since losing to Wingate on April 12.

“My school season was shorter than we wanted it to be, so I had a long break,” he said. “I’m anxious to get back at it again.”

As a junior at Carson-Newman, Yocom was 3-5 with a 3.82 ERA. He had 45 strikeouts in 66 innings and threw one complete game.

Despite the loss to Wingate in his final appearance, Yocom was happier with the back end of his season than the beginning.

“I finished the way I wanted to,” he said. “During the middle of the season I couldn’t find the strike zone like I wanted to, so I kind of struggled. I’m glad I finished the way I did. I built my confidence up, and hopefully I can carry it over into the summer and my senior year at Carson-Newman.”

“What I want Quinton to understand is that every year is different,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “One year you might do things that you can do better the next year. This is a completely new team, new situation and we’re going to treat it like this is his first day on the mound. I think it benefits him that he’s more comfortable with the surroundings, but he understands you still have to throw strikes and you still have to command the zone.”

Three of Yocom’s bullpen mates also reported Wednesday: left-hander Abe Cartledge and right-handers Cody Smith and J.T. Trujillo. Cartledge will be going to USC-Aiken in the fall, Smith plays at Black Hawk Community College in Moline, Ill., and Trujillo is from Anderson (S.C.) University.

The season begins a week from today with a two-game series at Butler. West Virginia’s first home game will be played Saturday, May 31, against league newcomer Champion City. First pitch on Fireworks Night will be 7:05 p.m.

— E-mail: gfauber

and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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