The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

May 6, 2014

First-ever MEC baseball champ to be crowned in Beckley

BECKLEY — History was made in Beckley a year ago. It will happen again in five days.

The first-ever Mountain East Conference baseball tournament will begin Thursday at Linda K. Epling Stadium. The top six teams in the conference standings qualified for the tournament, which will culminate with the crowning of the inaugural champion on Sunday.

Concord went down as the last West Virginia Conference champion last May. The league disbanded and most helped form the MEC before the start of the 2013-14 academic year.

Vying for the historic title will be Shepherd, Concord, West Virginia State, Urbana, Notre Dame College and West Liberty. Here is a look at each first-round matchup:

n No. 1 seed Shepherd (37-10 overall, 35-7 MEC) vs. No. 6 West Liberty (26-23, 23-18), 11 a.m. Thursday. The Rams come in with the league’s best offense with a .334 team average, and have clubbed 27 home runs. Michael Lott is batting .423 to lead the conference, while Spencer Wolfe (.401) has seven home runs and 49 runs batted in. Shepherd also puts pressure on the defense, stealing 136 bases out of 168 attempts. The Rams have the conference’s top pitching staff as well, with an earned run average of 3.43. Senior left-hander Paul Hvozdovic is 10-0 with a 1.42 ERA. He has 87 strikeouts and just five walks in 76 innings.

The Hilltoppers have struggled at the plate, hitting .257 and averaging just 3.6 runs per game. D.J. Busby is batting .349. Pitcher Mark Smyth is 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA. West Liberty is second in the league in defense.

n No. 2 Concord (36-14, 33-11) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame College (24-20, 22-17), 3 p.m. Thursday. The Mountain Lions have tied the school mark for wins in a season set in last year’s run to the WVIAC title. They are second in the league in hitting (.331), third in pitching (3.70) and first in defense. Joey Miller, who on Monday was named MEC Hitter of the Week, is fifth in batting average (.395) and first in homers (12), doubles (17), RBIs (68) and total bases (117). Bret Blevins is second with a .411 average. Senior Ryan Weatherholtz (7-4, 2.83) leads the pitching staff on a team that is 8-0 in the postseason at Epling Stadium.

Notre Dame College is coached by former major league pitcher Len Barker, who pitched a perfect game for the Cleveland Indians against Toronto in 1981. The Falcons are next to last in the league in hitting (.249). Pitcher Matt Kastelic is 7-4 and Jake Welch 7-3, with matching ERAs of 2.80.

n No. 3 West Virginia State (30-16, 26-14) vs. No. 4 Urbana (23-19, 20-14), 7 p.m. Thursday. W.Va. State legend Cal Bailey will retire at season’s end, so his last game in the Mountain State will be played in Beckley. Bailey has won over 1,000 games and 17 WVC championships in his 36-year career. As always, he brings one of the top teams into the playoffs. The Yellowjackets are third in offense (.324), second in pitching (3.47) and fourth in defense. Jack Hudson (.371) and Anthony Payne (.358) are 11th and 12th in the conference. Tyler Hall is fourth with a 2.76 ERA and is 7-2 on the year.

The Blue Knights, fourth in the league in hitting (.303), bring back to Beckley catcher Robert Tavone Jr., who played for the West Virginia Miners last summer. Tavone is hitting .255 and has driven in 20 runs. Matt Paculan is sixth in the league with a .388 average. Nick Bozman is 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter@GaryFauber.

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