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by Jim Holland

Two members of the current Lenoir-Rhyne University baseball team, catcher Cole Fowler and pitcher Ryan Sapp, have signed contracts to play for the West Virginia Miners during the 2017 Prospect League season.  Their signings were announced by the team on February 6 as the sixth and seventh of the many individual contract signings expected to be periodically unveiled by the Beckley, WV based team over the next several months.

Both players are juniors and both saw their first collegiate varsity action with the Hickory, NC based university in 2016 as sophomores.  They are both expected to be big contributors to the Bears program this spring in the team’s quest to place high in the NCAA D-II South Atlantic Conference standings.

Fowler, a resident of Dobson, NC, showed the promise of things to come as last season he hit .276 (8-for-29) in 23 games for the Bears with one homer and 11 RBI.  The 5-11, 185 lb graduate of Surry Central High School brings along a reputation for defensively being a good receiver behind the plate with an arm that can keep potential basestealers honest.

Sapp, a 6-1, 205 lb right-hander, appeared in 11 games for the Bears last season, all in relief.  He logged 14.1 innings of work and struck out 12 hitters versus seven walks with opponents for the year hitting .246 against him.  He came to Lenoir-Rhyne following a stellar high school career at East Mecklenburg High School (Charlotte, NC), where he appeared in 37 career games on the mound, which included 19 starts and four complete games.  He tossed a total of 116 innings in high school that included 157 strikeouts versus 49 walks.

The Prospect League is the premier collegiate wood bat summer baseball league in the Midwest. It has been operating in its current form since 2009 while serving the summer baseball needs of top collegiate players.  The 2016 Prospect League title won by the Miners was the team’s third league championship in the last five seasons.

Season-long box seats and other ticket packages for the West Virginia Miners are already on sale for the 2017 Prospect League season, which begins on May 30 while the Miners home opener will be on June 1 versus the Butler (PA) Blue Sox.  Persons needing more information on the Miners can contact the team either by e-mail at mktgwvminers@frontier.com or by telephone at 304-252-7233.

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