By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
At this point a year ago, Sam Lewis was the only player on the West Virginia Miners roster to have reported to Beckley. All he did was pitch two no-hitters, and the Miners won the 2012 Prospect League championship.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Miners manager Tim Epling said, smiling.
There is obviously no guarantee of what the summer of 2013 has in store. But Epling can at least take solace in the fact that significantly more players are in town with a week before the Miners’ season opener.
Six players had reported as of 5 p.m. Monday. Another was expected to report Monday evening.
Cameron Balough, a first baseman from Judson Universiy, second baseman/pitcher Vincent Bartolone (Ohio Dominican), outfielder/shortstop Dale Davis (Bluefield State), right-hander pitcher Jordan Pemble (Judson), catcher Robert Tavone (Urbana) and right-handed pitcher Quinton Yocum (Carson-Newman) are all here, and right-handed pitcher Kevin Johnstone (Case Western Reserve) was expected to join them.
Left-handed pitcher Will Thomas (Chattahoochee Valley CC) is scheduled to arrive today and center fielder Josh Merrigan (Georgia State) Wednesday.
The players who have arrived will go through a light workout today.
“We’re just going to let them throw,” Epling said. “We’re just going to meet for two hours and get familiar with everything. My goal is to be able to take some of the position players and let them get familiar with our baserunning schemes, so when the (other) guys come in late, we have a kind of foundation where they can learn from each other.”
Even with the possibility of nine players reporting by Wednesday, it has been a trying week already for Epling. A number of players will not be playing for a variety of reasons, sending Epling scrambling to find replacements.
Pitcher Trace Dempsey, a Huntington native at Ohio State who played for the Chillicothe Paints last summer, was supposed to play for the Miners, but he decided to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League instead. Ryan Perez, a pitcher from Judson who was already creating a buzz because he is ambidextrous, is shut down because of a right arm injury.
San Diego State right-hander Philip Walby recently left the Aztecs, and Radford catcher Blake Sipe was injured early in the season.
“Right now we’re hoping we can get at least half the team in here before we play (the season opener),” Epling said. “That’s my main concern right now.”
Marshall right-hander Kolin Stanley, the lone holdover from last summer, will have his arrival delayed. Epling found out Monday that Stanley has tendonitis in the back of his arm.
The Miners will open the season next Tuesday, May 28, at home against the Slippery Rock Sliders. That will be the first of six straight games for West Virginia.
“We’ve got six games in a row, so I have a sense of urgency,” Epling said. “We’ve got a couple kids from the West Coast. Getting them here takes a little bit longer because of the flight.
“Now everybody we have is new, and they are coming from different programs. So it has been a stressful week.”
— E-mail: gfauber@