By Jim Holland
*photo courtesy of Beckley Register-Herald
Standing tall and always looking ahead has always been part of the profile for 2016 West Virginia Miners’ pitcher Austin Goss.
And, that goes well beyond his imposing 6’8” 250 pound physique on the mound which opposing hitters must survey and come to terms with upon stepping into the batter’s box. It’s more about being a “gamer,” answering the call when you are needed most.
Such as on the night of August 11, 2016 when the big right-hander was given his biggest assignment of all, being given the starting pitching duties for the Miners at home in Game One of the best-of-three 2016 Prospect League Championship Series versus the Quincy Gems.
He answered the call to battle with flying colors in finishing what he started with a 126-pitch complete game 10-0 shutout over the Gems to send the Miners on their way to Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River to finish off a two-game sweep of Quincy two nights later to capture the franchise’s third Prospect League crown.
Flashing back to that night at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley, Goss shared he knew there was nothing keeping him from leaving it all out on the field for a game that will always be remembered throughout the history of the West Virginia Miners.
“I knew that I would not be making the trip to Quincy for game two as I was heading back to college after the game. I wanted to make my last impression on the season one that was memorable. We had a great crowd and the bats on our side were really going,” remembered Goss, who yielded only one lone hit for his nine innings of work.
He has always worked with a purpose even prior to his arrival in Raleigh County in late-Spring. This can be evidenced through his rise as a Florida high-schooler who excelled at both baseball and basketball. After high school, he turned his attention solely to baseball with his first college stop being at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, FL, a member of the Mid-Florida Conference.
The Port Orange, FL resident then made a bigger jump from there to Tennessee Wesleyan University, where in the spring of 2016 he appeared in 13 games on the mound (4 starts) that resulted in a 2-1 record and a 3.42 earned run average for the Bulldogs.
There’s always a different scenario for how every player finds his way to the West Virginia Miners’ roster and the case of Austin Goss was no different.
“Our pitching coach at Tennessee Wesleyan, Brad Neffendorf, knew (Miners’ manager) Tim Epling and through their conversations, the next thing I knew, I was on my way to West Virginia for the summer,” said Goss.
He discovered quickly that he had landed in a good spot, sharing that “We were only about four games into the season when I said to myself, hey we’re pretty good! Usually on college summer ball teams, players play for themselves but I could see here we had really good team chemistry and that we had a great chance of making some very good things happen.”
In addition to the Prospect League, which he termed as having better crowds and nicer stadiums above what he was used to playing in during previous summers, he found that being in the Mountain State left quite a positive impression on him.
My host family this past summer, Kelli Harrison and her son Chase, were great and kept me on the go as because of them, I had the opportunity to see a lot of things in West Virginia. We went hiking and zip lining as well as them taking me to the Greenbrier Resort, where I got to go down in the bunker. They were awesome and treated me so well,” stated Goss, who added it would be easy for him to recommend the West Virginia Miners as the team to play with for any college players in the future that are presented with the opportunity.
The spring of 2017 will be his last wearing the uniform of Tennessee Wesleyan as a player on the collegiate baseball scene although he will still have one more semester needed beyond then to secure his B.A. degree in marketing. Beyond that, he hopes he will be taking his exemplary fastball and slider on to professional baseball and “play for pay.”
So, Austin Goss is indeed still looking ahead and certainly has his goals still mapped out in front of him. Local fans will still have at least one more chance to check on his progress and see Goss (along with his college teammate, Miners third baseman Dan Ward) in action on April 28-29, 2017, when the Tennessee Wesleyan University Bulldogs journey to Bowen Field in nearby Bluefield to play a three-game series versus the Rams of Bluefield College.
It’s a given that die-hard Miners fans will be there. It’s because of that always continuing unbroken circle known here locally as “Miner Pride.”
And, Austin Goss’ performance in game one of the 2016 Prospect League championship series will always leave his name in that circle for one of the greatest single-game performances in West Virginia Miners’ history.