Miners have work to do

Brad Davis/The Register-HeraldWest Virginia Miners pitcher Philip Hoffman delivers against Lafayette Sunday at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. The Miners will try for their first victory of the season tonight when they host Champion City at 6:35 p.m.

They are four games into a 60-game season and still getting used to each other. Still, the first weekend of the Prospect League season could not have gone worse for the West Virginia Miners.

With Monday’s off day, the Miners had time to take a step back and assess the damage. They are off to the worst start in team history after getting swept in a four-game series by Lafayette.

The most glaring problem has been the pitching.

The Miners have been unable to find the strike zone, walking a league-worst 27 batters over 36 innings. They have also hit a league-high 10 batters, all of which has contributed to an 8.50 earned run average that is ahead of only Hannibal’s 10.04.

However, the responsibility does not fall completely with the pitchers.

The hitters have not been selective and have struck out 23 times to just eight walks in 151 plate appearances. They are averaging 4.25 runs per game and are hitting just .225, although 16 of their 31 hits have gone for extra bases, including a league-best 14 doubles.

Defensively, the Miners have the league’s worst fielding percentage at .939. They are last in the league with 10 errors, although that number is slightly skewed — five came in Sunday’s 13-4 loss to the Aviators. Three of them were in the ninth inning, two on one play.

First-year manager Mike Syrett wants to guard against the struggles getting into the players’ heads.

“I hope not. But it’s baseball,” he said. “(Lafayette) is going to be one of the best teams in our division. I’m pretty confident in saying that. And I think we still have a shot to win as well. Starting Tuesday, it’s a new season. We’re going to come out here and do our best to compete and win a ball game.”

Syrett gave the players Monday off so they could decompress.

“Hopefully that relaxing day will reset the circuits,” he said.

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A bright spot thus far has been the play of Jonathan Pasillas, a temporary player who wrapped up his college career last month at Missouri Baptist.

Pasillas has been the designated hitter in all four games and is batting .417 with three runs scored and two driven in. Four of his five hits are doubles, which ties him for the league lead with John Behrends of the Cape Catfish.

He also pitched an inning of relief on Sunday, inheriting a bases-loaded, nobody-out mess in the ninth. He gave up a sacrifice fly — the run was not charged to him — and got a looping line drive out and groundout for a perfect inning. He threw nine pitches, nine for strikes.

“I’ve known Jon for a while,” said Syrett, the pitching coach at Missouri Baptist. “He’s doing well for us. He’s a leader, he’s a graduated senior. He’s doing a good job of just keeping his composure and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Pasillas played for the Miners last summer and hit .234 with 13 doubles.

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The Miners will wrap up their homestand tonight against Champion City. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. It will be a Day of Hope Event sponsored by FMRS Health Systems.

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