By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It hasn’t taken long for Joey Miller to figure out how Concord baseball works.
“You play good defense, you throw strikes and you do enough offensively to beat the other team, you are going to win,” said Miller, who credited that ‘famous’ comment to Concord baseball coach Andrew Wright.
The Mountain Lions did all three on Friday, sweeping a West Virginia Conference twinbill 15-8 and 11-3 against Bluefield State at June O. Shott Field.
“They have a very good offensive team,” Bluefield State head coach Geoff Hunter said. “There is no question about it.”
Concord (31-18, 25-9), which beat the Big Blues 26-7 on Wednesday, have now outscored Bluefield State 52-18 in three games, with the regular season finale today in Bluefield at 1 p.m.
“We have been hitting it well here lately anyway,” Wright said. “It is just a product of getting good pitches to hit, that is really what it comes down to.”
Miller knows what to do with those pitches. The junior college transfer from Hagerstown, Md. hit a three-run home run in an eight-run second inning in the opener, and added two long balls in the finale, including a two-run shot in a nine-run fourth inning.
“Our philosophy is get a pitch and when we get a pitch we are usually successful,” said Miller, who is tied for the league lead with 13 home runs, and leads the WVIAC with 62 RBIs. “If we can get in advantage counts and hit the ball hard, good things happen.”
Concord, which had 31 hits on Wednesday against the Blues, added 15 in Friday’s opener, with Andrew Siegel, Josh Wenger, Jerrod Groves and T.J. Broadway collecting doubles among their two hits. Bert Blevins and Joe Camp also had two hits for the Mountain Lions.
“We started off slow, but when our offense gets going we score in bunches,” Miller said.
It happened again in the second game, with the Mountain Lions breaking open a 1-1 game with nine runs in the fourth.
“Same thing again,” Miller said. “We needed a couple of innings to get loose, but if you throw strikes, play good defense and do enough offensively to beat the other team you can be hard to beat.”
Concord also pitched well, with Ryan Weatherholtz working five innings in the opener, allowing just six hits and three runs. That was enough for Wright, who wants his ace to be ready when the final WVIAC baseball tournament begins on Wednesday in Beckley.
The Mountain Lions sent three pitchers to the mound in the finale, with southpaw Tyler Coyle picking up the win.
“(Ryan) was going to have a short day because we have such a quick turnaround for the tournament,” Wright said.
Bluefield State (7-32) did get 12 hits in the opener, including two-run home run by Giles’ product Dylan Raymond and RBI doubles from Willie Yates and Tyler Frazier. Raymond drove in three runs, while Dale Davis and Clayton Ayers had three hits and two runs apiece.
“I thought we were pretty competitive,” Hunter said. “We didn’t quit in the first game, we hung in there and scored some runs late. They are just a very good team and we are still a very young team and sometimes it is a little tough when you don’t have the experience when things don’t go your way.
“You have to have that mental toughness to complete at this level, we just have to get a little tougher.”
Concord used a trio of hurlers in the nightcap. Princeton product J.C. Pennington held the Mountain Lions to a single run through three — a solo home run by Miller — and it was still 1-1 going into the fourth.
“Their starter did a good job and kind of had us on the ropes there a little bit,” Wright said. “It just goes back to our guys just employing an approach during the course of the game and it tends to work out.”
Raymond also had a double in the finale, while Frazier and Davis drove in runs for the Blues, who continued to look to an uncertain future, with efforts still being made to find a conference for Bluefield State to call home.
“We are committed to the future, we have been starting a lot of freshmen,” Hunter said. “We are never satisfied to lose, but I think we do have a few quality wins and quite a few quality losses.
“It is one of those deals where we will have a bad inning here or there and it takes us out of any chance to win. That is just the way it goes. If they will stay with us, we could have a pretty good ball club here in the next couple of years, but who knows what is going to happen.”
While Bluefield State will call it a season today, the Mountain Lions will return to Beckley, the scene of a pair of one-run defeats to Fairmont State earlier this week.
“We have got some unfinished business and we kind of have a bad taste in our mouth about what happened there on Tuesday with Fairmont State,” Wright said. “We kind of fell asleep, I think it was a good wake-up call for our guys and we have doing pretty well here since.”
Miller knows the Mountain Lions can’t afford to struggle at the plate again like they did against the Falcons.
“We struggled with the bats that day, and when we don’t hit it is tough for us to stay focused in the field and our pitchers have a tough time doing the right thing,” Miller said. “It is easy to pitch when you have a big lead there.”
Wright led Concord to the WVIAC title two years ago, but the Mountain Lions were 2-1 in pool play last year and didn’t qualify for the championship round.
He feels good about this club as playoff time approaches.
“I do, but we have got to make sure even in big wins score-wise that we are not letting some of the little stuff get away from us that might potentially come back to haunt us in tighter games,” Wright said.
“When we are rolling good things are going to happen,” Miller said. “That is all I am going to say.”
—Contact Brian Woodson