Through two games, allowing free base runners had been the Achilles’ heel of the West Virginia Miners.
Having allowed 18 through two games, the goal Saturday was to limit the free passes.
The good news for the host Miners is they were able to do that in their third game. The bad news is Lafayette put runners on base with hits.
The Aviators scorched 16 hits, coming away with a 7-2 win at Linda K. Epling Stadium to send the Miners to an 0-3 start.
Following the loss, Miners manager Mike Syrett attributed the early season pitching struggles to the disparity in the ball/strike ratio department.
“It still ties into that ratio,” Syrett said. “We’re getting behind hitters too much. When we do get ahead, we’re being too fine and not hitting all of our spots. I still have a lot confidence in these guys. We’re just working out the kinks.”
Those kinks threatened to blow the game open early, in favor of the Aviators, but the Miners regrouped to hold them at bay.
Lafayette No. 4 hitter Mason Sykes drew a walk drew a two-out walk in the top of the first. That extended the inning for No. 5 hitter Chris Monroe, who capitalized with an RBI single. A walk to the following batter loaded the bases, but a strikeout diffused the threat.
It took just over an inning for the Miners to respond.
A home run crushed over the fence in dead center by Matt Rubayo knotted the contest, with the Miners inching ahead in the fourth inning when Rubayo hit the second of back-to-back doubles, scoring Johnathan Pasillas for a 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately for the hosts, much like the night before when they tied the game in the eighth inning, it didn’t take long for Lafayette to seize control, with two-out miscues again being the culprit.
A one-out triple in the top of the fifth put the Aviators in position to score, but a shallow grounder secured the second out while holding the runner at third. Much like it did in the first, a two-out walk to Sykes extended the inning, with Monroe being the beneficiary.
His two-run double gave the Aviators a 3-2 lead. Monroe then scored when Braedon Blackford followed with an RBI double of his own.
Over the next two innings the Aviators added three more runs, though they wouldn’t be necessary as the Miners only once placed a runner in scoring position after the fifth inning.
“We’re still learning these guys and trying to see what works,” Syrett said. “It’s all trial and error until you get something clicking, and even then you’ve still got to mess with some stuff. We’ve still got a few key guys coming in, so hopefully they click on offense and start building with the guys we’ve got here now and just move forward.”
The Miners will try to avoid the season-opening sweep today at 2:35 p.m.
“These first two weeks we’re aiming to be around .500,” Syrett said. “Until we get everybody in and get the ball rolling, that’s a good goal for us to be at. That’s a good team over there. A really good team. I anticipate them being in the top of the division right along with us. It’s good to see where we’re at early on. We’ve got a trip down there to hopefully do the same to them that they’ve done to us here.”
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