The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 11, 2012

Prospect-ing for gold

BECKLEY — On the field where Geena Davis, Madonna and Tom Hanks helped bring alive an obscure part of baseball history, the West Virginia Miners will try to leave their own mark.

The Prospect League Championship Series shifts to League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind., tonight, where the Dubois County Bombers will host the Miners for Game 2. First pitch will be 7:15 p.m.

West Virginia is one win away from its first title in just three years of existence. A loss tonight would force a decisive third game at 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s not finished yet,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “We still have a row to hoe.”

Will Blalock will likely start for West Virginia. The right-hander from Lipscomb was 5-3 with a 2.39 earned run average. All three of his losses came during a stretch in July, but he got back on the winning track Aug. 1 at Slippery Rock.

The Miners drew first blood in the series Thursday in a 4-2 win over the Bombers. Sam Lewis set a Miners record with 18 strikeouts in a complete-game seven-hitter. It was his fourth complete game of the summer.

That was in the friendly confines of Linda K. Epling Stadium, where bad hops simply don’t exist. Now the Miners face the challenge of traveling their greatest distance of the summer and playing on a natural surface.

West Virginia hasn’t played on a dirt infield since Blalock’s win at Slippery Rock.

“We have played well away this year, but their field is a little bit different,” Epling said. “We have to go up there and play good defense. That’s going to be a challenge for us because of the surface we will be playing on.”

The trick, Epling said, will be to keep the routine as normal as possible.

“We don’t want to get down there too early and have a lot of time on our hands,” Epling said. “We’re not going to change what we have been doing the last three to four weeks. We’re going to keep (doing) the same things we have been doing, and keep them (just) as comfortable. If they sense certain things we don’t do normally, they say, ‘Uh-oh.’ It puts them on edge, and we don’t want to do that.”

League Stadium is one of the more historic venues in the league. Game scenes from the movie “A League of Their Own” were shot at the stadium. The movie told the story of the Rockford Peaches played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II-era America.

The stadium was also used in filming of the HBO movie “Soul of the Game,” which focused on Negro League Baseball.

This weekend, the Miners hope to write their own chapter.

Tonight’s game can be heard on Groovy 94.1 FM, with Dave Traube handling play-by-play.

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