The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 6, 2012

Miners clinch overall title

West Virginia will host Chillicothe Tuesday for East championship

BECKLEY — With the friendly rivalry that exists between the West Virginia Miners and Chillicothe Paints, no game between the two will ever be meaningless.

While today’s game in Chillicothe will have no influence on positioning in the Prospect League standings, it will still be important.

With their sweep of a doubleheader against Richmond Sunday, the Miners (40-18) clinched the league’s second half championship. By virtue of already having won the first half title, West Virginia is officially the regular season champion.

“I think the players have put in a lot of hard work,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “You can’t do it without the players, and you certainly can’t do it without the (support) the program offers the players.”

Sunday’s wins also served to complete Tuesday’s matchup for the East Division championship. The Paints (35-24), who earlier Sunday pounded Lorain County 17-1, clinched the overall second place spot and, thus, will visit the Miners at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday.

The twinbill sweep had a decided different feel from Saturday’s 12-4 loss to the RiverRats.

In the opener, four West Virginia pitchers combined on a four-hitter in a 13-1 win. The Miners sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run first, and had nine players bat in the second and fourth.

Will Blalock started and tossed a perfect first before giving way to Russ Luxton. Luxton (3-1) struck out three and walked one while allowing an earned run on two hits.

The fourth pitcher of the game for the Miners was shortstop Matt Chavarria. The right-hander will pitch in a late relief role for Southern Indiana next spring, and finally got the practice time he had been hoping all season to get.

“It was nice,” a smiling Chavarria said. “I have pitched my whole life, and I had been telling coach Epling I can do it. He was like, ‘OK, OK,’ but he didn’t believe me until a couple of days ago when he saw me throw (in the bullpen). It was nice to get back out there.”

Epling liked what he saw Sunday, even when Chavarria got himself into trouble in both innings of work. He escaped bases loaded jams twice, the second ending the game when first baseman Trey Drewery extended his arm into the Richmond dugout to catch a foul ball by Jordan Fortner.

Chavarria finished with two strikeouts and a walk and allowed three hits. He also hit two batters.

“He’s got a very good presence on the mound,” said Epling, who told Chavarria Friday that his mound debut was coming. “He wasn’t tight. I know the score wasn’t tight, but for him to be able to come in and throw strikes and throw a curveball over, I was really impressed.”

Joe Williams was 3 for 5 with three RBIs for West Virginia, while Luke Meeteer, Clay Prestridge and John Spirk had two hits apiece.

In the nightcap, West Virginia trailed 6-2 before scoring nine runs over its final three at-bats for an 11-6 win.

Shady Spring graduate Corey Lilly made his return to the Miners and started. The RiverRats got to him for five earned runs and four hits over two innings.

Two more position players took the mound for the Miners.

Gray Stafford, the team’s home run leader and right-fielder, gave up a hit and a run in one inning. Catcher Grant Williams (1-0) took over and worked the final two innings. He picked up the win after striking out three and walking one. He didn’t allow a hit or a run.

Joe Williams was 3 for 4 and Spirk 2 for 4 to lead the Miners.

West Virginia and Chillicothe will close out the regular season at 7:05 p.m. today at VA Memorial Stadium.

— E-mail: gfauber@

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