By Gary Fauber Assistant Sports Editor
From his days as the head baseball coach at WVU Tech in Montgomery, Tim Epling knows how competitive life in NCAA Division II can be.
He also knows how good baseball is at the NAIA level. Tech switched from the NCAA to NAIA halfway through his tenure there.
With the West Virginia Miners’ season opener now just two days away, Epling will lead his team into Prospect League play with a roster that brings a little NAIA flavor to the fore.
Epling has played the game — the recruiting game, that is — at both levels. The rules governing recruiting are more stringent in the NCAA, and NAIA schools often benefit from that.
“I think the NAIA is great,” the Miners manager said. “I’ve been on both sides. From a coaching standpoint, I just knew that players had the opportunity to get better because of the time. You’ve got good coaches on both ends, but it’s all about recruiting when it gets to a certain point. NAIA can get some really good players that Division II cannot get.”
To Epling’s point about players benefitting from more time, Georgia Gwinnett College played 64 games this spring — winning 50 — and finished one win away from playing in the NAIA World Series.
The Grizzlies sent two of their players to Beckley to play for Epling — pitcher Tyler Oglesby and infielder Marcus McCorkle.
Ironically, Georgia Gwinnett played WVU Tech at Linda K. Epling Stadium last month. Also, Grizzlies assistant coach Dan Holcomb played for new Miners hitting coach Greg Keaton with the Battle Creek Bombers in summer league.
“They have a very good program,” Epling said. “You take a look at where they’re located. They’re recruiting is right in the heart of the SEC, the Sun Belt. Major conferences that are really good. To have a good team in that area, that says a lot because of how strong the recruiting wars are.”