The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 12, 2014

Miners’ offense explodes in fifth straight win

Everyone knows it’s coming, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Fifteen of the West Virginia Miners’ last 22 games are on the road, including 12 of the final 14. It’s been that way since the schedule was released in the winter.

If the Miners are going to win the second half title and secure a spot in the Prospect League playoffs, they’ll have to deal with it.

One way is to get the pitching ready, which manager Tim Epling had in mind Friday night.

After falling behind 4-0, West Virginia scored nine straight runs and rode its bullpen to a 10-6 win over the Champion City Kings in front of a crowd of 1,058.

Starter Cody Smith struggled for the second straight outing, allowing three earned runs in three-plus innings. He gave way to Cody Pope after allowing a leadoff double to Brent Hermanussen in the fourth.

Hermanussen scored and Landon Lucansky later came around against Pope, but the right-hander settled down and pitched well in 3 2/3 innings of relief.

Dalton Curtis and Dalton Thompson also worked for the Miners as four pitchers combined for 134 pitches.

“We were not going to go long with any of our (pitchers),” Epling said. “We had scripted out where we were probably going to throw three innings max. If we can get four, that’s one thing. We just wanted to string four of five guys out because our starting pitching is going to be kind of thin. So we’re going to staff it a couple of times a week now.

“We really have to put some things together here because of our road trip. We’ve got a brutal, brutal road trip ahead of us. Our schedule is very tough, so our guys have got to get ready and play.”

It took a few innings, but the Miners (24-14, 6-2) looked ready against the Kings.

Trailing 4-2 in the sixth, West Virginia pulled even on Zach Woolcock’s two-run single up the middle. Mike Brosseau then walked to chase Champion City reliever Joe Piercey, and new pitcher Joe Pourier’s first offering went wild, allowing David Martinelli to score the go-ahead run.

The Miners, winners of five straight, blew it open with four more in the seventh. Woolcock came through with another two-run single, this one a bloop to right.

“I thought we were lethargic the first four or five innings,” Epling said. “I told the guys they had to play with more energy. We scored two and that kind of relaxed everything.”

A two-run double by Trevor Lowe got the Kings back to 9-6 in the eighth, but he was gunned down at third to end the inning while trying for a triple.

Westyn Baylor’s two-out double scored Rob Youngblood to put the Miners up by four.

Five Kings pitchers combined for 10 walks, 12 hits and four wild pitches.

Pope (3-2) got the win, striking out three and walking one.

Piercey (0-1) took the tough loss. All three runs he allowed in the sixth were unearned.

The Miners will begin a two-game series at Chillicothe at 7:05 p.m. today. Andrew Bramley will start in his final appearance of the season for West Virginia.

— E-mail: gfauber and follow

on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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