The scorebook will show that West Virginia came up one run short Tuesday night to Chillicothe on a close play at the plate in the final inning.
In reality, it was missed opportunities early in the game that put the Miners in a precarious situation.
After watching a six-run lead disappear, the Paints scratched across a run in the top of the ninth to beat the Miners 9-8 for their sixth straight win.
“Early in the game we had opportunities to put the ball in play and score runs. We didn’t do it,” West Virginia manager Tim Epling said. “There were certain pitch selections early, from a hitting standpoint that we need to get better at. Outside of that, it was a pretty darn good game.”
A lead-off walk in the second inning coupled with a pair of singles gave the Paints an early 1-0 lead heading to the fifth inning.
The Miners on the other hand had runners in scoring position in each of the first four frames only to come up empty.
Another lead-off walk to start the fifth loomed large when the Paints added four hits and two sacrifice flies that led to five runs and a 6-0 lead.
“Walks will end up hurting you, especially walking the fastest guy in the league and lead-off walks,” Epling said. “It puts pressure on you. One good thing tonight was we made some plays under pressure situations to get back in it.”
Four straight hits by the Miners, the last being a two-run double from Blake Lazaris helped West Virginia score four big runs to stay in the game.
Heading to the bottom of the eighth inning, however, Chillicothe still had the lead at 8-5.
A one-out single from Coby Tweeten and a walk with two away set the table for the Miners top home run hitter, Eddie Leon.
The freshman from Marshall University got the pitch he was waiting for and drove it deep into the night to tie the game at 8-8.
The blast was Leon’s fourth of the season.
“He didn’t get a lot of playing time this year for Marshall, but (head) coach (Jeff) Waggoner told me that he is going to be a good player for them. He is just a good athlete,” Epling said. “He has the mindset that you want in a player. I watch him work in the outfield when we are taking batting practice. He is working on his game by getting jumps on the balls.”
Unfortunately for the Miners, they missed on another crucial opportunity later in the inning.
A walk to Barrett Riebock and two stolen bases put him 90 feet from the go-ahead score, but the Miners could not cash in on the chance to take their first lead of the night.
A lead-off walk to Santrel Farmer and a sacrifice bunt game the Paints a runner in scoring position. After a strikeout, Tim Orr hit a ground ball in the hole at shortstop.
Moving on the pitch, Farmer never stopped and Josh Griffin elected to throw home for the final out of the inning. Although the ball beat Farmer easily, he was ruled safe on the slide for what became the winning run.
“Regardless if he was out or safe, I don’t have any excuses. We still had opportunities to score two or three runs early in the game and then we are not in that situation,” Epling said. “We have to be accountable for ourselves. There are things you can control and the thing you can’t control is that play at the plate. What we can control is out there on the field and that is the mindset that I want them to take.”
The loss drops the Miners to 4-6, but Epling found plenty of positives on the night.
“Our pitching got a lot better. They have have been running the bases all year and we held them in check. It is a process. It is like a 60-game season and you will win some and lose some,” Epling explained. “It is all about the learning experiences. I like this team. You are going to win some you should have and lose some that you shouldn’t have. At the end of the day, it all evens out.”
The two teams meet again Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. at Linda K. Epling Stadium.