Beckley – West Virginia Miners manager Tim Epling can live with stranding runners on base early in the season as the team’s bats whip into shape.
What made him visibly frustrated Sunday night was the team’s meltdown on defense.
The Miners committed four errors in the top of the ninth, blowing a 5-2 lead and losing 8-7 to Champion City Sunday at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
“I have a thing, no excuses,” Epling said. “There’s no excuses. You take accountability for whatever. You’ve got to learn how to get past it. You have to look to the future. If you keep looking back you look for teams to start pressing. Then they start expecting things to happen whether it’s good or bad. We have to expect good things to happen because we do have the pitching staff to shut people down.
“We’re getting some timely hitting and a lot of baserunners on and I hate to say it, but it’s the truth – we just don’t have our people in yet that we need. They’re out of position and that’s not an excuse. You field it, catch it, throw it. They’ve been doing that since little league. Field it, catch it, throw it. Every one of them have been doing it all their life.”
The story early was a familiar for the Miners (0-3). They loaded the bases in three of the first five innings, but stranded them each time, leaving 11 on through the first half of the game.
Still, they were able to eek out hits and bring some runners in.
The first one scored in the first when Malik Williams hit an RBI-single that brought in Brandon Beauchamp. Champion City answered in the second with a one-out single from Dallen Leach, who scored on an error with two outs to tie the game.
The Miners responded with two more runs in the bottom of the frame, the first on a Denver Blinn single and the second on a sac-fly from Williams. They added two more in the fourth when Williams drove in his third run of the game, establishing a 5-1 advantage for the hosts.
Unfortunately the opportunity for more was lost as the Miners stranded the bases loaded, follwoing the trend of their first two games when they stranded double digit runners in both contests
“You take a look at how many runners we’ve left in the last three games,” Epling said. “As long as you’re doing that, it’s just about timely hitting and you take advantage of what the other team gives. But it is what it is. I don’t have the answers to a lot of things because every team is different. I’m trying to feel this thing out. It’ll take me about a good week to do that.”
Champion City added a run in the top of the fifth to make it 5-2, but earned runs were at a premium as the Miners’ pitching staff handcuffed the Kings, scattering six hits across the first eight innings with only one going for extra bases. They also worked out of jams, stranding eight runners on.
“That’s been the strong point so far,” a frustrated Epling said. “We have a really good pitching staff, we really do. The thing about it is is the first win is always the hardest especially when you have new kids, young kids. I don’t have to say what happened, but our pitching has been really good and we’ve got to get more players in here to make defensive plays and that’s all there is to it.”
After smooth sailing through the latter part of the game it fell apart for the hosts in the ninth.
A fly ball was dropped in right field to allow Champion City’s Ethan Krizen on to start the inning. After getting the first out, the following two batters reached on errors at second and shortstop. The bleeding didn’t stop there as a fourth error, with two outs and the Miners clinging to a 5-4 lead, allowed the tying run to score. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases and Edrick Padilla promptly unloaded them with a double, capping a six-run frame for the Kings.
The Miners answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame and had the tying run on base with no outs, but back-to-back strikeouts followed by a pop out allowed Champion City to escape with the two-game sweep.
“You’ve got to center everything around pitching and defense,” Epling said. “We’ve always done that. And you’ve got to play at least two out of three phases of the game well to consistently win. “Great teams do all three of them – hit, catch and throw. And so we’ve just got to find a way to win and take one pitch at a time.”
The Miners are off today but will return to action Tuesday when they host Chillicothe. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.
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