Wednesday night was “June-o-ween” at Linda K. Epling Stadium. It was the West Virginia Miners’ take on Halloween in the summer, as fans and staff alike dressed up in costumes.
The visiting Butler Blue Sox must not have gotten the memo, as they looked spooked, committing three errors, as the Miners cruised to their ninth victory of the season with a 13-7 win.
After falling behind early when Butler’s Colton Carney belted a three-run home run in the first inning, the Miners scored two runs in each of the first two innings to take a 4-3 lead.
“I wasn’t really nervous because we’re used to that,” Miners manager Tim Epling chuckled. “It’s just one of those things that you have nine innings, not one. It happens, they got three or four hits, but I liked the way we came back.
“Don’t get me wrong, all wins are good, but we got too many 2-2, 3-2 counts and that’s the reason you have pitch counts that go up and seven-hour ball games. We’ve gotta pound the strike zone and right now we have to focus on getting that first strike over because it makes everything so much easier.”
The four unanswered runs were just the tip of the iceberg for the Miners, who poured it on in the third inning. After West Virginia opened the third with a double play, nine straight Miners reached base, scoring seven runs, with the highlight coming from DePaul Blunt who scorched a two RBI double to lead the charge. As has been the theme for the Miners this season, the bats were hot, as they kept slugging and never stopped.
“If you take a look they walked a couple during that stretch,” Epling said. “I don’t know how many hits we had in a row, but usually when you score that many runs you have a home run in there somewhere, but we’re not a home run hitting team. We’re putting the ball in play and we’re not giving up at the plate and we’re making people earn it. If you can do that consistently for 27 outs, you’re going to be able to score runs.”
After the smoke cleared in the third, the Miners led 11-3, well on their way to their ninth win, but the Blue Sox regained their composure, threatening a comeback. Runs in the fourth and fifth innings cut the deficit to six runs, with an opportunity to score more with the bases loaded, but the Miners’ pitching staff neutralized the threat, while the offense answered with runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
While the offense continues to be the strength of the Miners early on, the pitching staff struggled at times to throw strikes on Wednesday, prolonging the game and providing the Blue Sox with free base runners.
“I think that the rust we had early is starting to get a lot better,” Epling said. “It’s all about making adjustments and sometimes when you lose a feel out on the mound, you have to allow them to get that feeling back. Sometimes you just have four or five and balls and you start putting pressure on yourself and your body starts getting tight. They have to learn how to relax, take a deep breath and pretend that the count is 0-0, no pressure.”
The win was the Miners’ fourth straight over Butler this season, after they opened the season series with an 8-7 loss to the Blue Sox.
“They’re a good team,” Epling said. “You can’t take anything for granted. They will come out here and play hard tomorrow, we know that. They have a very good hitting team and we have got to do it on the mound. We played pretty good defense today, but we’ve got to get those strikes and we’ve got to get those outs on the mound. Pitching, catching and defense will win you games and we’ve got to pound the zone tomorrow.”
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