The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

July 28, 2012

Award-worthy seasons

Miners’ Lewis, Prestridge should be considered for Player of the Year

When Sam Lewis opened the Miners’ season with a no-hitter against Slippery Rock, it helped to foreshadow how dominant the team’s pitching would be.

Now, serious consideration has to be given to just how special the season has been for Lewis, individually.

The West Virginia right-hander turned the trick again Thursday, tossing his second no-no in less than two months in a 9-1 win at Lorain County. The junior at Indiana Wesleyan threw 119 pitches, 74 for strikes, in his Prospect League-leading third complete game of the summer.

Lewis struck out seven and walked four, and the Ironmen’s run was unearned thanks to West Virginia’s lone error. He retired 14 straight batters at one point.

Beyond his 5-0, 7-inning gem against Slippery Rock — the first no-hitter in the team’s history — Lewis had gone largely unnoticed. But that is of no fault of his own.

That kind of anonymity was a by-product of being part of the league’s top pitching staff. Going into Friday, the Miners were still tops with a 3.59 earned run average.

But Lewis (6-1) quietly has been just as big a part of that as anyone else on the staff. He is at or near the top in several pitching categories:

— Wins, tied for first;

— Complete games, first;

— Batting average against (.159), first;

— Strikeouts (59), second;

Lewis also has a WHIP (walks-plus-hits divided by innings pitched) of a puny 0.97 and has surrendered just one home run to 242 batters faced. He has allowed just 33 hits in 58 2-3 innings.

His ERA is 3.07 — inflated by his only bad outing of the year against Richmond, but still good for ninth in the league.

While pitching has carried the Miners through the season to date, teams still have to score runs. West Virginia has done that, but one player has clearly emerged as the Miners’ most clutch player.

Catcher Clay Prestridge has been the staff’s best friend — from his defense behind the plate to his prime offense to the left side of it.

Going into Friday, Prestridge was leading the league with a gaudy .407 batting average.

Others may hit more home runs than Prestridge, and his RBI total of 33 is well behind leader Matt Tellor of Springfield only because he has played in 14 fewer games.

Consider these numbers:

— 33 RBIs, 30 runs scored in 31 games;

— 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts;

— 17 of 46 hits for extra bases.

That doesn’t even reflect his defensive numbers. Yes, his error led to the only run scored against Lewis on Thursday, but he has killed rallies or negated walks and hit batsmen by picking runners off the corners.

All that after missing the team’s first 16 games as a late arrival and sitting out another because of illness. He had three hits in his first 17 at-bats but has had only one hitless game in the last month.

Prestridge recently had a 14-game hitting streak and is currently riding a wave of eight straight.

Prestridge has enough at-bats to qualify for the league batting title. He should also be considered seriously for player of the year.

Same for Lewis on the mound.

———

The Miners (10-8 second half, 31-17 overall) begin a two-game homestand tonight against the Butler BlueSox. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

The second game of the series will start at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.

———

CORRECTION: The East Division championship game will be played Aug. 7, not Aug. 8. The Miners will host the winner of the East’s second half at 7:05 p.m.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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