By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Rick Raraigh has never actually pitched off the turf mound at Linda K. Epling Stadium. But he has been to the stadium and saw it during its biggest moment.
The Seton Hill left-hander spent last summer with the Slippery Rock Sliders of the Prospect League. He was in the visiting bullpen for the West Virginia Miners’ first-ever home game, which was won by Raraigh’s team.
The atmosphere created by 2,118 history-witnessing fans sticks with Raraigh (pronounced rare-e).
“I didn’t pitch (in that series), but I thought it was a beautiful field,” Raraigh said. “It just happened to be their home opener, and I got to see it when it was packed. It was something else.”
No doubt, Raraigh will get his turn to play on the Epling turf this week at the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. The four-day event kicks off Thursday, with the top four teams from the North and South Divisions competing in a round-robin format.
Raraigh has been the top pitcher on the conference’s top staff, which sports a 3.38 earned run average. The senior from Wexford, Pa., is 5-2 with a 1.21 ERA. He has allowed only six earned runs, 11 overall, and 22 walks in 44 2-3 innings.
Opponents are hitting a paltry .192 off Raraigh, who has faced 190 batters and given up just four extra-base hits — no home runs. He also has two complete games and has combined on two shutouts.
Success for Raraigh has boiled down to simply living for the moment.
“Just being a senior and trying to enjoy my last year of college,” he said. “I’m having fun, and I’m working hard. Everything has fallen into place.”
Raraigh credits the rest of the staff, as well as the conference-leading offense (.329 average) and the defense in helping Seton Hill to a 31-10 overall record (24-3 WVIAC). The Griffins are fourth in the league with a .957 fielding percentage.
“I feel like our defense has been very sturdy the entire year,” Raraigh said. “There have been times when we didn’t hit, but our pitching picked us up, and vice versa. Then we have had times when everything was clicking.
“Our team has done well. We had a 19-game winning streak at one point this year. We’re in first place in (the North) division. We’re playing really well, and hopefully we can carry it over into the tournament and in the regional if we get there.”
The Griffins defeated West Virginia State in last year’s title game for their first WVIAC crown. This time, Seton Hill wants to go farther.
“That was our main goal (last year), to get the WVIAC championship,” Raraigh said. “We tried to set our goals a little higher this year. We want to win a regional championship.”
The first step toward that goal comes Thursday, when Seton Hill takes on the fourth seed from the South — likely Concord — at 1 p.m.
Tickets for the tournament are $7 per game, or a tournament pass can be purchased for $20. To buy tickets with a credit card, call 304-252-7233, or go online to www.wvminersbaseball.com.
— E-mail: gfauber@