By Gary Fauber Assistant Sports Editor
Brad Davis/The Register-Herald West Virginia Miners shortstop Cal Hernandez fields a ground ball Saturday night at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
ARTALEJO SHINES IN RETURN TO MOUND AS MINERS BEAT RATS 9-3
You might have expected Cody Artalejo to be a little nervous making his start for the West Virginia Miners on Saturday night.
He obviously wasn’t.
Making his first appearance in a year, Artalejo allowed just four hits over 6 1-3 innings and led the Miners to a 9-3 win over the Richmond RiverRats for their first home victory of the season.
Artalejo (1-0) missed what was supposed to be his senior season at Eastern New Mexico University after having surgery in October to repair a torn labrum in his hip. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander had not pitched competitively since his final start last May.
“We had a great crowd here, had some fireworks after the show,” Artalejo said. “I really missed the game. I thought there would be (butterflies), but I just felt comfortable all game.”
That was apparent. He retired the side on eight pitches in the first inning, giving West Virginia (2-2) the fast pitching start it didn’t get in a two-game sweep at the hands of the Jamestown Jammers. The Jammers took a 4-0 lead in the first in the second game of the series.
Artalejo, who pitched at both El Paso Community College and Northeastern Junior College before going to ENMU, faced minimal damage in the third. The RiverRats scored twice, although one run was unearned, and took a 2-0 lead.
But that was all Artalejo would allow. He left the game with one out in the seventh, striking out four and walking one.
“I thought I threw well,” he said. “I threw strikes, which helps out. They put the ball in play and good things happened.”
“He throws a really heavy fastball,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “He kept the ball around the zone and didn’t get himself in too much trouble. That’s really encouraging to watch because that’s the first time I saw him throw.”
It took the bats a while to get started, but West Virginia tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth, then went ahead 4-2 in the sixth. Run-scoring singles by Stone Osborne and Dylan Harvey highlighted the sixth.
The Miners went up 5-2 in the seventh, then a four-run eighth put it out of reach. Justin Paul had a two-run double, right after Mark DeYoung’s RBI single in the eighth.
“We didn’t have much energy the first three or four innings,” Epling said. “I told the guys, ‘Listen, you guys have got to have more energy, start running around out here and have some fun, and good things will happen.’ We made a couple of baserunning adjustments and got a couple of runs, and it kind of loosened things up. From that point on we just took some situational hitting and scored some runs.”
The relief combination of James Doubet and Joshua Falbo was nearly unhittable for the second time this week. Doubet replaced Artalejo and struck out the first three batters he faced. He allowed just one hit — a single that resulted in a three-base error and run by Braden Mosley — in 1 2-3 innings.
Falbo pitched a perfect ninth in a non-save situation to close it out. He holds the season and career saves records at West Virginia State.
“It’s always good to get that first home win,” Epling said. “We had a good crowd. It was exciting at times, it was dull at times. It probably had about everything in it. But I was pleased with the way we played compared to the way we played (Friday).”
The teams play again at 2:05 p.m. today. It will be Qdoba Kids Day. There will be bouncy houses and coloring contests in the Kids Zone, and all kids eat free at Qdoba.
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