By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The West Virginia Miners are not doing much right, and manager Tim Epling is frustrated. His team isn’t hitting. It’s not executing, nor is it even close to reaching the potential he strongly believes is there.
The Miners lost three of four games on their latest road trip, which ended Sunday with a 5-2 loss at Butler. West Virginia sits at 12-12 and in third place in the Prospect League’s East Division, three games back of leader Chillicothe and two behind the BlueSox.
“We’re not clicking and it’s frustrating,” Epling said. “You try everything that you know to do and it’s not happening. Our pitching has been fresh, but we don’t play good defense at times and we don’t even execute bunts. That’s the most frustrating thing for me is we’re not doing the fundamental things.”
The ineptitude of the offense has been the most obvious problem. The Miners are hitting just .222 and have scored just 17 runs over their last six games. They came up with five hits in each of their two losses at Butler.
On the season, West Virginia is eighth in the league with a .245 average and has an on-base percentage of just .334.
“When we do get runners on early, we’re not bunting them over to get them into scoring position,” Epling said.
Three players who have played the majority of West Virginia’s games are hitting over .300 — Zach Woolcock (.344), Kaeo Aliviado (.327) and Pat Kregeloh (.301). Cameron Balough has played in 11 games and is hitting .364.
Epling has tried several things to try to shake up the offense, including putting shortstop/pitcher Brandon Koch into the leadoff spot. Koch is hitting .289 over 13 games.
The Miners have been caught stealing on 11 of 42 stolen base attempts. That isn’t bad on the surface, but considering aggressive base running was one of the hallmarks of last season’s championship team, it isn’t good enough by Epling’s standards.
“We have always been a strong base running team,” Epling said. “You would think (it would be better) with all the speed we have.
“Position by position, we have more talent overall than we had last year. That’s the crazy thing.”
The Miners were off Monday and will start a four-game homestand at 7:05 p.m. today against Lorain County. Kregeloh will get his third start on the mound for West Virginia. The right-hander from Shippensburg is 0-1 with a 7.56 earned run average.
“They have all been quiet after losses, which is good,” Epling said. “That means they are taking it personally.
“Hopefully this day off and being home will get us relaxed and help us see where the mistakes are.”
It will be Two For Tuesday — any fan who buys a ticket will receive a second one free — and Baseball Bingo Night. It will also be Miners Appreciation Night. Any miner, currently working or retired, who presents a certification card will be admitted free.
Wednesday will be Little League Day. Any player or coach wearing a Little League jersey will be admitted free.
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Former West Virginia Miners pitcher Sam Lewis picked up the win in a relief appearance in the Burlington Royals’ 3-2 victory over the Princeton Rays on Sunday.
Lewis entered in the seventh inning and did not allow a run over 2 1-3 innings.
— E-mail: gfauber@