By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Normally, Dale Davis would have batted left-handed in his seventh-inning at-bat against Slippery Rock reliever Kevin Becker-Mendito. But because of the right-hander’s sidearm motion, the switch-hitting Davis attacked from the right side.
The move worked perfectly.
Davis’ opposite-field double scored two runs and highlighted a three-run inning as the West Virginia Miners beat the Sliders 6-3 for their third straight win.
Davis, a Bahamas native who plays at Bluefield State, had been struggling before coming through Tuesday night. He entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth and was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Robert Tavone’s ground ball to third.
He finally came through an inning later. He worked Becker-Mendito to a full count before taking an outside pitch to right field and driving in Kaeo Aliviado and Pat Kregeloh to put the Miners ahead 6-1.
“It was pretty tough,” Davis said. “Coach brought me in in a tough situation. I just knew I had to hit the ball for the team and pick a good pitch to hit.”
Miners manager Tim Epling said Davis’ at-bat was about more than strategy.
“I wanted him to get more consistent on the right side, not so much go left-handed because you’re (facing) a right-handed pitcher,” Epling said. “The way he hits, he was tailor made for that pitcher. So I left him in as the (designated hitter) and he battled, got to 3-2. There was a borderline pitch he probably could have swung at but he didn’t. He got a good pitch, and he did a good job of coming in in that situation.”
“I like to hit lefty more, but on those pitches — submarine, sidearm — they run away from the lefty,” said Davis, a natural right-hander.
As it turned out, West Virginia needed the cushion Davis provided.
The Sliders (5-8) scored a pair of unearned runs off Miners reliever Brandon Koch in the top of the eighth. Aaron Lindgren reached on an error, and back-to-back singles by Tom Crimi and Storm Wilson loaded the bases with nobody out.
Koch struck out pinch-hitter Gentry Kinsella for the first out, but Hunter King walked to score Lindgren.
Matt Calhoun’s sacrifice fly to deep center drove in Crimi to make it a 6-3 game.
Epling stuck with Koch, who struck Morgan McCassland out looking to end the inning with minimal damage done.
Kevin Johnstone (2-1) beat Slippery Rock for the second time this season. The right-hander from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland went 6 1-3, striking out four and walking none. He allowed four hits and an earned run.
Johnstone threw only 77 pitches, 49 for strikes.
“Kevin was steady,” Epling said. “He pitched to contact today. He mixed up speeds. What I liked about it was our guys made plays behind him. He was just cruising along the whole game.”
Two of the hits allowed by Johnstone came in a five-pitch first inning. Wilson singled to left on the first pitch of the game, but Cooper Mickelson grounded up the middle on the first pitch he saw. It was fielded at the bag by shortstop Evan Potter, who was making his Miners debut out of San Diego State. Potter effortlessly stepped on second and threw to first to complete the double play.
Vince Bartolone pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.
Slippery Rock starter David Wilson (2-1) took the loss. He allowed seven hits and three earned runs over six innings, walking four and striking out one.
The Miners (7-6) have won five of their last six and are now in a four-way tie for first place in the Prospect League’s East Division. Chillicothe, which had been alone in first, lost 2-0 to Butler.
West Virginia will host Slippery Rock at 7:05 p.m. today, with Quinton Yocom starting against Zach Strecker. Then the Paints visit for an important early series Thursday and Friday.
Thursday will be Miners Appreciation and Friends of Coal Night. All miners, currently working or retired, who present their certification will be admitted free. Friday will be Faith and Family Night. Admission will be free for anyone presenting a church bulletin.
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SR: 000 000 0 — 3 8 0
WV: 000 120 30x — 6 9 2
SR: David Wilson, Travis Clark (7), Kevin Becker-Mendito (7) and Mike Andries WV: Kevin Johnstone, Brandon Koch (7), Vince Bartolone (9) and Robert Travone Jr. WP — Kevin Johnstone. LP — David Wilson. S — Vince Bartolone. Hitting — SR: Storm Wilson 3-4, Connor McCallum 1-2, Matthew Calhoun 1-3 (R, RBI), Morgan McCassland 1-2 (2B), Ryne Clark 1-2, Tom Crimi 1-3 (R), WV: Kaeo Aliviado 1-3 (2 R), Pat Kregeloh 2-2 (2 R, RBI), Zach Woolcock 1-3 (2 RBI), Griffin Moore 1-1 (R), Dale Davis 1-1 (2 RBI, 2B), Robert Travone Jr. 2-4, Evan Potter 1-4 (RBI) .