The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

July 30, 2013

Slippery Rock a road block for Miners

Einhardt becomes West Virginia's latest casualty

BECKLEY — The West Virginia Miners leave town today for their last road trip of the season, en route to possibly the last place they want to be.

It has nothing to do with the town of Slippery Rock, Pa., where the Miners will take on the Sliders at 7:05 p.m. But Slippery Rock presents quite the road block as West Virginia tries to clinch a division title.

The Miners (35-19) lead Butler (31-23) by four games in the Prospect League East Division. Their magic number to clinch is three.

Butler plays an important two-game series at third place Chillicothe (30-24) starting today.

The Sliders are out of the race, 11 games back of West Virginia and six behind Chillicothe. They can still impact the race, however, with two games against the BlueSox in addition to the two with the Miners.

Slippery Rock has given the Miners fits on occasion and would enjoy keeping them out of the playoffs or at least delaying things.

“They have had our number,” West Virginia manager Tim Epling said. “We go up there and it’s a dogfight. They’re not in the playoff hunt, but their motivation is to beat us. That’s no doubt. We need to find a way to scrap up some good wins and get ready for them.”

The Miners are 7-3 against Slippery Rock this season, but some of those wins have not been easy. Among them is a 4-2, 14-inning victory July 5.

Ryan Perez (2-0, 2.50) will start for West Virginia against Sliders left-hander Matt Riggs (2-1, 2.11). Perez is ambidextrous, but it isn’t hard to figure out which arm he will be using against Slippery Rock’s predominantly left-handed lineup.

n n n

The Miners might win the division, but they are losing the war of attrition.

The list of players to leave the team over the last two weeks is long and includes the likes of All-Star starting pitcher Jaesung Hwang, league-leading hitter Kaeo Aliviado and improving outfielder Nick Paxton.

Now you can add Evin Einhardt to the list. The right-handed pitcher had his summer shut down by his coach at Cumberlands University, Woody Hunt.

Einhardt struggled in his outing Sunday, a 4-1 loss to Butler. He walked six over 5 1-3 innings, although he did allow just one hit and sat down 10 straight batters at one point. The Battle Creek, Mich., native is 3-2 with a 1.65 ERA.

n n n

James Woods is known for his left-handed sidearm delivery, but it turns out he can swing a golf club, too.

Woods was part of Team Valley Turf, which included his dad, Jeff, that played in and won the West Virginia Miners Golf Tournament on Monday on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs. The team finished at 19 under par.

Woods is a scratch golfer, a talent he may have inherited from Jeff, who won the closest to the pin contest.

n n n

Doug Votolato has been an asset to the Miners since he arrived in mid-June, but his versatility has been more evident the last two weeks.

Listed on the roster as an infielder — he played mostly at second base through his first month — Votolato has filled a key role by moving to the outfield. Since July 10, the Central Arkansas product has played all three positions there, although he most often has been in right.

He has made a number of key defensive plays, including a diving catch in right against Lorain County on July 20 and a sliding catch on his knees in center against Butler last Saturday. Both plays helped preserve shutouts.

He has played center field in three of the last four games as West Virginia tries to overcome the exits of Paxton and Aliviado. Including Votolato, the Miners now have three outfielders — Zach Woolcock and Dale Davis, like Votolato, are listed as infielders.

Another switch Votolato has made is in the lineup. He has been hitting in the leadoff spot since July 11, when the Miners beat Chillicothe 2-0. West Virginia is 11-4 with Votolato at the top of the order.

“In my judgment, I think he is probably one of the better leadoff hitters in the league,” Epling said recently. “The way he’s swinging the bat, the way he is looking at pitches, he really understands the strike zone. He knows how to make adjustments, even from the umpire’s standpoint.

“He’s fun to coach, because you don’t have to. He is a very smart player. He knows how to run the bases. He understands the situations. I’m very fortunate to have someone like him on our team.”

n n n

Evan Potter isn’t having the greatest of summers at the plate. The San Diego State product is hitting .149 and has struck out 19 times in 94 at-bats.

When it comes to defense, however, Potter has few, if any, equals in the league.

In each game against Butler over the weekend, the shortstop made two plays on balls up the middle that looked destined for Votolato’s glove in center field. Both times, Potter fielded the ball behind the base, spun and fired to record the out.

His play on Sunday turned what seemed a sure two-run single by Cody Herald into a RBI groundout.

“Any time the ball is hit on the left side of the field, and it’s around his glove, you always know something good is going to happen,” Epling said. “He is the best defensive shortstop in our league. There’s nobody any better than he is.”

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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