Miners’ rally falls short

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Chris Jackson/The Register-HeraldWest Virginia Miners pitcher Caleb Smith (15) delivers to a Butler BlueSox batter during their game Tuesday night at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. The BlueSox scored eight runs in the first inning off Smith and rode it out to a 10-7 win.

Chris Jackson/The Register-HeraldWest Virginia Miners pitcher Caleb Smith (15) delivers to a Butler BlueSox batter during their game Tuesday night at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. The BlueSox scored eight runs in the first inning off Smith and rode it out to a 10-7 win.

It was an unusual position for Prospect League East Division champion West Virginia.

The Miners surrendered eight runs to Butler in the top of the first inning, and at one time trailed 10-1.

That’s rare in any season for Tim Epling’s team.

What wasn’t unusual was that West Virginia fought back. And fought back.

Butler held on for a 10-7 win, but Epling was wearing a smile after the game.

“That was a good game, outside of the score,” he said. “I was very pleased with the way we came back, the way we hit the ball and played defense.”

After losing its entire lineup of starting pitchers at midseason, the Miners are using relievers, such as Caleb Smith, as starters, and position players as relievers.

Smith (2-1), who entered the game with a 2.12 ERA, gave up eight runs in the first inning. Tyler Sullivan and Chucky Vazquez both drove in two runs with a double and single, respectively. In all, Butler had six hits, including one that hit an umpire.

Smith also walked three batters.

“Smitty was throwing strikes but they hit it,” Epling said. “I hate it for him because he is such a competitor, but that’s a learning experience. How he bounces back is more important than today.”

Epling pulled Smith in favor of outfielder-turned-pitcher Lyndale Morley, who allowed one run over the next five innings. Reserve catcher Connor Grove also pitched, allowing one run in the eighth, and closer Calvin Coker stopped a Butler rally short in the ninth.

West Virginia got one run back in the fifth on a run-scoring triple by Dylan Harvey, and then unloaded on BlueSox reliever David Stover for seven runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Harvey, Dom Iero and pinch-hitter Hunter Vansau led off with consecutive singles for the first run. A wild pitch brought Iero home before Zach Sterry’s fielder’s choice scored Vansau.

The payback continued as Dan Ward walked and Jonathan Weeks singled, setting the stage for another pinch-hitter Cal Hernandez, who ripped a shot to the wall in left field. Both runners scored, and then Stone Osborne, also pinch-hitting, grounded into an error at shortstop that scored Hernandez.

“We had a good opportunity to get some new bats and get everyone into the game,” Epling said. “They (pinch-hitters) went in there and produced. We hit the ball well.”

Butler pulled Stover, and reliever Carter Krick walked James Keller. But Krick struck out Harvey and Iero lined to shortstop to end the rally.

Ward drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, but ace reliever Zach Spangler struck out Weeks to earn his 16th save of the year for the BlueSox.

Sullivan, Daniel Hrbek and Allan Hooker each had three hits for Butler. Harvey matched them for the Miners.

Harvey stole a base in the second, giving him 35 on the season. He is now three away from tying the league record of 38.

West Virginia will host Chillicothe for the first of a two-game series at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Linda K. Epling Stadium.

“That (the eight-run first inning) is not going to happen all the time,” Epling said. “If we play like (the comeback) the rest of the year, we’ll be in good shape.”

— E-mail: dstillwell@

register-herald.com

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