By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The word on the West Virginia Miners keeps getting out.
A week after they won their second straight Prospect League championship, the Miners were ranked 15th in the nation by Perfect Game in its final ranking of summer college wood bat teams. They finished last season ranked seventh after posting a 40-win season and winning the title in their third year of existence.
“I think anytime you get in the top 25, that’s pretty good,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “Anything (worse than 15th) would have been a disappointment, but I thought that was fair.”
Epling said he and other summer managers across the country are contacted by Perfect Game writer Allan Simpson, who also is the founder of Baseball America.
“Allan does a good job with Perfect Game,” Epling said. “He gets a lot of information from players and coaches and really puts his mind into it. He doesn’t just throw numbers out there.”
Tuesday’s final ranking is further testament to the level the Miners have reached in a short time. They have not missed the postseason in their first four years, compiling a league-best 8-2 record in the playoffs. That includes a seven-game winning streak — three games in 2012 and four this year.
“We were in the top 30 our second year and have been able to get better than that the next two years,” Epling said.
The effect the immediate success has had on the program is evident in its recruiting. When the team started in 2010, Epling and Co. had to go out and find players. Now, the word is out on the Miners, and college coaches are calling them to get their players on the roster.
“I’ve already had calls today from coaches wanting us to come and see their players,” Epling said. “Our first two years, we had to call coaches and hope we would get good, quality players who are able to establish themselves. Now, we’re at the point where coaches call us for their players to be part of the team. We can be kind of selective. I can let the coaches know what we are looking for.
“That’s the tough part is the evaluation process. You can look at a player today and he can be lights-out, but consistency is what you are looking for. That’s the tough part. I have to figure out if they are able to handle the day-in, day-out grind of a professionall baseball (type) schedule. This is the closest thing to it, and it comes as a shock to them.”
This year was a perfect example of that. When the Miners beat the Quincy Gems for the league championship last week, both teams were down to 18 players. Many players returned home, because they were unable to handle the grind.
“We had a very, very good team, but some players melted,” Epling said. “A pro scout will see that and say, ‘Look, if you are not able to handle (the summer travel), there’s no way you’re going to be able to handle professional baseball and all the pressure.”
After standing at 12-12 on June 25, West Virginia went 26-10 the rest of the regular season. That included a 10-game winning streak that helped the Miners take first place in the East Division by July 1, a position they never relinquished.
The Danville Dans, regular season champs in the West Division, finished 19th. Quincy also received ranking consideration.
The Brazos Valley Bombers, who won the Texas Collegiate League championship, finished the year at No. 1.
The Cape Cod League had five teams in the top 25.
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