By GARY FAUBER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Like many college students, Dustin Nuckels plans to work his way through the summer. For now, though, those plans will have to wait.
Nuckels officially joined the West Virginia Miners last weekend, providing desperately needed depth as manager Tim Epling still awaits the arrival of most of his players, who are still with their respective colleges for conference tournaments.
A 2010 Oak Hill graduate, Nuckels will pitch for the Miners on a contractual basis.
“It was unexpected at first,” Nuckels said of the opportunity. “Tim said it’s just a temporary deal, and I hadn’t been settled in at home yet, so I thought, why not? Thirty-minute drive (from home), so I’ll give it a chance.”
Nuckels just completed his third season as primarily a reliever for Concord. He made eight appearances out of the bullpen and started one game for the Mountain Lions, who earlier this month won their second West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in three seasons.
The junior right-hander was 0-1 with a 7.71 earned run average. He had 17 strikeouts and just five walks in 14 innings pitched.
For his career, Nuckels is 4-2 with a 6.88 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 68 innings.
“He keeps the ball around the plate,” Epling said. “Pitching is all about changing speeds, I don’t care if you throw 90 miles per hour or 80. If you can change speeds then you are going to be effective.
“For what we have to use him for, I think he will do a good job.”
Nuckels sees his role as being situational.
“A righty here or righty there, things like that,” he said. “Whatever Tim Epling needs out of me, I’ll be here to help him out as long as I can.”
Nuckels can’t ask for much more than what he has already been a part of. Concord was the surprise of the WVIAC tournament his freshman year, running undefeated through pool play and beating West Virginia State in the title game.
The Lions were picked to win their division this season but finished second to State. But they again were perfect in the tournament — double-elimination this time — and again beat the Yellow Jackets for the title, making them the last WVIAC baseball champions in history. Most member schools will form the Mountain East Conference and start play in 2013-14.
“It’s been all positive, from an educational standpoint to a baseball standpoint,” Nuckels — an education major who hopes to one day be a principal — said of his first three years at Concord. “It’s everything I wanted in a university. I’m glad it’s where I am now.”
Nuckels was set to spend the summer at home before he got the call from the Miners.
“The regular college (student) stuff, I would say,” he said. “I was looking for a job. I had a couple opportunities there, but I hadn’t been settled in so I decided to come over, play a few weeks and help them out.”
— E-mail: gfauber