The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

December 28, 2012

Miners’ ride to championship had many memorable moments

Now that he’s had more than four months to reflect, West Virginia Miners manager Tim Epling can readily tell you the moment he will most remember about the team’s run to the 2012 Prospect League championship.

He certainly has his choices, from Sam Lewis’ two no-hitters to beating the storied Chillicothe Paints for the East Division championship. But what stands out to Epling is the day when the ride came to an end.

“I reflect on the very last day, of when it was a time for the team and the coaches to be by themselves,” Epling said. “In that little dungeon dressing room (at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind.). I gave them about a two-minute pep talk afterwards, knowing that might be the last time that I see some of those players.”

He was right. The bus was nearly empty on the trip home, a day after the Miners beat the DuBois County Bombers to sweep the PL championship series. As memorable as the summer might have been, most of the 26 players never came back to Beckley, instead electing to ride home with their families so they could squeeze what little free time was left before going back to school just two weeks later.

But no one will ever be able to take away the memories they all helped forge for three months in 2012. They will always be able to say they were part of West Virginia’s first league championship.

The Miners won both halves of the season in the East, then beat Chillicothe 6-2 in a one-game sudden death playoff for the outright division title. That was followed by Lewis’ team-record 18-strikeout gem in a 4-2 win over the Bombers in Game 1.

Both of those games were at home. To win the title, the Miners had to go on the road and beat the Bombers at historic League Stadium, where the movie “A League of Their Own” was filmed.

Joe Williams provided the big scene in this one — his diving catch with runners on the corners and two out preserved West Virginia’s 6-3 lead in the eighth en route to the championship.

The Miners finished the regular season with a league-best 40-19 record and went 3-0 in the postseason. The team was ranked No. 7 in Perfect Game USA’s final top 30 list of summer collegiate teams.

“Your first (championship) is always special,” Epling said, “knowing how hard those kids worked and how much fun we had with each other, as a coaching staff and as players in general.”

There were plenty of individual achievements along the way, including:

n Clay Prestridge. Despite arriving late and missing some time with an illness, Prestridge was still the league’s batting champ with a .393 average. He was also named an All-American by Perfect Game.

n Sam Lewis. In the very first game of the season, Lewis pitched the first no-hitter in team history against Slippery Rock. Less than two months later, he did it again at Lorain County. He led the league in wins (8), and later signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals. Like Prestridge, Lewis was named an All-American.

n Bradley Strong. The third baseman was elected to start the league All-Star game and tied for the league lead with 29 stolen bases.

Moving forward, the Miners will look almost completely brand new in 2013. As is stands now, Kolin Stanley is the only player to confirm that he will be back. Stanley, a right-handed pitcher from Marshall, tossed a perfect ninth inning for the save in the championship clincher.

Epling and staff will be faced not only with establishing an on-field approach that fits the team’s overall ability, but also making sure team chemistry remains strong.

“We’re still recruiting. We’ve got about 23, 24 kids signed so far,” Epling said. “It’s a new year, and with a completely different-looking ballclub. We lost 23 or 24 players. It’s almost like we’re starting over. It’s scary.”

— E-mail: gfauber

@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Other Sports
  • 042014 old white Happy birthday to The Old White

    As Greenbrier owner Jim Justice proudly stood behind the podium on the first tee box addressing a crowd at the 100th anniversary of the historic Old White TPC Course, a surprise guest emerged from the bushes by the tennis center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 bubba Watson becoming a West Virginian

    Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was glued to the television a week ago today, watching Bubba Watson try to chase down his second green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 old white Old White to celebrate 100 years

    The home of The Greenbrier Classic will be having a birthday today, and the celebration should be something special.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mullens, Pineville to meet in Anderson Memorial

    After many years away from the sideline, legendary Mullens High School coach Don Nuckols is returning to the game of basketball.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 D'Antoni Lakers mum on D’Antoni

    Mike D’Antoni was still the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach when he left their training complex to spend the Easter weekend out of town with his family.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • D’Antoni’s Lakers future still unclear

    With the Los Angeles Lakers season officially over — the Lakers beat the Spurs 113-100 Wednesday but finished 27-55 overall, the most losses in the club’s history and the franchise’s worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers in 1957-58 — Marshall fans will be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in Tinsel Town over the coming days.

    April 17, 2014

  • McClung moving from mound to dugout

    Seth McClung was getting his daughters Madison and Fallon inside and ready for their baths when his phone rang. He’s said before that he enjoys the role of “daddy day care.”

    April 15, 2014

  • First stop Waffle House; next stop The Greenbrier

    Bubba Watson decided to keep his post-Masters victory more low key this year. Instead of going to New York for a media tour, he headed home to Orlando, Fla., and kept plans for a five-day vacation with his wife.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pick 3: Cam Huffman's answers

    Is Mike D’Antoni the best hire for Marshall basketball if the Herd can land him?

    April 15, 2014

  • Pick 3: Gary Fauber's answers

    Is Mike D’Antoni the best hire for Marshall basketball if the Herd can land him?

    April 15, 2014