By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
As the West Virginia Miners’ offense starts to pick up, pitching is suddenly a concern.
Right-hander David Hess informed manager Tim Epling that he is leaving the team. Matt Bragga, Hess’ coach at Tennessee Tech, was concerned about the number of pitches Hess has been throwing and requested that he be shut down for the summer.
Hess last pitched for the Miners on Friday, striking out 10 in a 4-3 win over Richmond.
“David was a relief pitcher (in college) and we worked him in as a starter,” said Epling, who was on the team bus returning home after Sunday’s 5-2 win at Lorain County. “If you look at his numbers, he was throwing well. But his coach has to protect his job and look after his team. David is going to be one of his top arms if he pitches in college the way he has for us.
“He (Bragga) told me his innings were up a little bit and he was afraid David was going to get hurt. He wants to protect (his players).”
Hess was 4-0 with a 1.90 earned run average, and his 48 strikeouts lead the Prospect League. He walked only five batters in 38 innings. He nearly broke the team record for strikeouts in a game when he had 14 against Lorain on June 2.
Also gone is Central Arkansas left-hander Zach Barr, who said he is transferring to the University of Arkanas and needed to return home to take care of that matter.
“Zach was more of a one-inning specialist,” Epling said. “A lot of teams bring a lot of lefties on board and you need a left-handed pitcher to go against that and he is one of those types of pitchers.”
Losing two pitchers — one of them a potential all-star — presents Epling with a challenge.
“We have always had a deep bullpen, and we have been getting some quality starts,” he said. “All it takes is one game to get out of hand for your staff to get depleted. I have always liked to have a lot of arms where we can challenge (hitters) based on their strengths and weaknesses. When you lose some bullets in the gun, it puts you behind the 8-ball.
“We’ve been getting good quality starts; our starters are going into the sixth inning.”
Evin Einhardt made his first start for the Miners in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Ironmen. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit over six innings. Einhardt is a right-hander from Cumberland University.
“He (Einhardt) did a great job,” Epling said. “The ball gets to the plate quick, and when he is throwing his fastball for strikes, then puts that slider in there, it looks like a fastball. He has nine strikeouts so he is averaging over a strikeout per inning.”
On Sunday, Jaesung Hwang ran his record to 4-1, striking out six and walking two while holding Lorain to three hits over eight innings. He allowed his first two earned runs in the fourth, and his ERA skyrocketed — to 0.49.
Brandon Koch got the save Saturday and James Woods on Sunday, but the bullpen has largely been spared of late.
“We’ve been able to go starter-closer (for the most part) and we haven’t really needed a middle reliever much,” Epling said. “But that’s not going to last, and I know that.”
The Miners, who have won six straight and are in first place in the East Division, are off today before hosting a two-game set against Butler Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games will start at 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday will be Two for Tuesday (buy a ticket, get a second free) and Baseball Bingo Night. It will also be Employee Night — a night of appreciation for stadium employees.
Wednesday will be WJLS Big Dawg Night and Military Night, with the Army National Guard attending and displaying some of their military vehicles. Any serviceman or servicewoman in uniform will get in free of charge.
In addition, a pair of tickets to the Kenny Chesney concert at the State Fairgrounds on the Fourth of July will be given away.
Also, the traditional July 3 fireworks show will follow the game.
— E-mail: gfauber@