West Virginia Miners manager Tim Epling has the team — not a group of individuals — he wanted all along.
Kenny May drove in Dale Davis with the tying run in the bottom of the 14th inning, then Pat Kregeloh’s two-run homer punctuated a 4-2 win that made the Miners the Prospect League East Division champions.
The Miners (36-22) can finish no worse than in a tie with Butler for the division title, but they secured the championship by virtue of winning the season series with the BlueSox.
An offense that had been dormant during a season-worst four-game losing streak finally woke up in the 14th. West Virginia, which led the BlueSox by five games with eight to play last Saturday, hit just .189 during their losing streak.
They didn’t exactly take strides Friday night, but finally came through when it counted.
Dale Davis led off the 14th with a soft single to center on a 2-2 count, then went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Evan Potter. After Doug Votolato flied out to center, May hit a blooping single to center to score Davis for a 2-2 game.
“That hit by Kenny May was huge,” Epling said.
Then Kregeloh came up with his biggest hit as a Miner. The third baseman who had two of West Virginia’s four errors on the night, atoned for them both when he blasted the first pitch he saw from Zach Wolfe over the left field wall for his first walk-off homer since high school.
Kregeloh was happy to hit the homer, but was quick to credit May.
“I was just going up there looking for a pitch to hit,” said Kregeloh, who received two ice-water dousings from his teammates. “To tell you the truth, the hit Kenny May had before that was bigger than the home run.”
Chillicothe left fielder Dominick Brugnoni scaled the wall as high as he could as the fans celebrated and Kregeloh’s teammates waited to mob him at the plate.
The game was tied 1-1 until the top of the 14th when the Paints (32-26) finally took advantage of an opportunity.
Nick Lombardi walked and went to second when Brugnoni bunted for a single off Rolando Celis. Stuart Eisler tried to bunt them both over, but popped the ball foul behind home plate. Miners catcher Josh Galvan made a diving catch for the first out.
James Woods relieved Celis and struck out Vinnie Booker. Troy Kuhn then hit a ground ball that went off the glove of West Virginia shortstop Evan Potter for an error. Lombardi scored to give the Paints a 2-1 lead.
Chillicothe had six runners in scoring position in five of the six previous innings but left them all stranded.
Celis turned in a stellar relief appearance, going 7 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked two and was charged with the run — unearned — in the 14th.
Woods wound up getting the win.
The Miners will wrap up the regular season with a two-game set against Richmond starting at 7:05 p.m. today. It will be Fan Appreciation night, with fireworks after the game.
It will also be WVVA Night. There will be plenty of free giveaways.
The season finale will be at 5:05 p.m. Sunday. The best-of-three playoffs begin Tuesday at either Butler or Chillicothe. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be played at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
Chillicothe and Butler can still tie for the second spot, but the Paints hold the tiebreaker. Everything hinges on what happens this weekend, including the conclusion of Butler’s game with Lorain County, which was postponed with the BlueSox leading 3-0 in the third inning.
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West Virginia Miners 4, Chillicothe Paints 2
CP: 000 001 00000001 — 2 9 1
WVM: 000 100 0000 0003— 4 10 4
CP: Mike Deitsch, Jack Quigley (8), Tito Nava (11), Zach Wolfe (14) and James Miglin, WVM: Kevin Johnstone, Rolando Celis (7), James Woods (14) and Josh Galvan. WP — Woods. LP — Wolfe. Hitting — CP: Troy Kuhn 1-7, Daniel Zuchowski 1-6, Zach Mathie 1-6 (2b), Nick Lombardi 2-4 (r, 2b), Dominic Brugnoni 2-6, Stuart Eisler 2-6 (2b), Jossue Delgado 0-4 (r), WVM: Douglas Votolato 3-6, Kenny May 3-7 ( 2 r, rbi), Pat Kregeloh 2-7 ( r, 2 rbi, 2b, HR), Cameron Balough 1-3 (rbi), Dale Davis 1-6 (r).
Records: WVM (36-22); CP (32-26).