By J. DANIEL ROLLINS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Concord University baseball coach Andrew Wright is a creature of habit. He likes to keep things on a routine and keep his players focused. So when Concord set out for Linda K. Epling Stadium from Athens on Thursday morning, Wright expected to be playing baseball at 3:30 p.m. What happened instead was anything but routine.
“I looked up and saw some traffic and thought, "It’s no big deal, I’ve been through this before,'” Wright said. “Then ya know, an hour and fourty-five minutes later, we finally started moving.”
The Concord baseball team, like hundreds of others, was stuck on I-77 due to traffic backup from a semi-truck fire between the Mabscott and Harper Road exits in Beckley.
“It delayed some things a bit, but our team did a good job of being focused while on the bus,” Wright added. “We kept it loose and stuff like that.”
Whatever they did on the bus must have worked as the Mountain Lions accounted for five runs on 12 hits to defeat the University of Charleston to improve to 2-0 in the WVIAC baseball tournament.
Concord kept its hopes of winning the final WVIAC championship alive thanks to the stellar pitching of sophomore hurler Kevin Mack.
Mack isn’t an overpowering pitcher, using several different offspeed pitches to his advantage to keep his opponents guessing. He held the Golden Eagles offense to only five hits.
“I’m just trying to stay focused,” Mack said. “I knew our team was going to come around and give us some runs in the late innings. I’m just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of batters and get them out.”
Mack was right. The Mountain Lions would add a run in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth to give Mack the win - and more importantly - the chance to play another day.
Concord’s offensive attack went right after former Greenbrier East and current Golden Eagle pitcher Alec Austin. The effort was led by redshirt Senior Devin Smith, who went 4-for-5 with an RBI, junior Bret Blevins, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and sophomore Jerrod Groves, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Concord also had four other batters with a hit each.
“When you look up and down our lineup, we were bunting with our third hitter, our ninth hitter, whoever was up at the time and we needed to move a runner,” Wright said. “My hat’s off to our entire offense for playing selfless baseball, but Kevin Mack stole the show there, keeping us in it so we could score some runs late.”
The Mountain Lions broke up a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning when Groves drove home Joey Miller to give Concord a 2-1 lead. The following inning, Josh Wegner and Blevins drove in three runs to make sure the Mountain Lions stayed on top.
“Most of my games have been low-scoring games,” Mack said. “My team comes around and scores for me.”
Concord won’t know who it will play in tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup at Epling Stadium until the morning, but Wright has confidence in his team's ability.
“I hope so, I certainly hope so,” Wright said on whether Concord will be able to keep the momentum going. “If we keep getting the pitching performance we’re getting right now, I don’t see it being a big problem. If we can keep manufacturing runs like we did the last couple of games, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Mack certainly hopes his season continues as well.
“We’ve been playing baseball all season long,” he said. “It’s fun for us playing in college. I just love being out here everyday. It’s alright with me if I’ll be doing it for a couple more weeks.”
As for today, it’s back to the routine.
“”We’ll just go about our business and stick to a routine,” Wright said. “We don’t get too hyped about it, we just show up. I told our guys after the game let’s get ready for Friday. The guys will be in class tomorrow and all that good stuff. One of the benefits of playing here in Beckley.”
Hopefully this routine involves a little less traffic.
Concord........................001 000 130 — 5 12 1
Charleston....................001 000 000 — 1 5 1
CU: Kevin Mack, Will Zuspan (9) and T.J. Brockway, UC: Alec Austin, Alex Oldham (7) and Sage Iacovone. WP — Mack. LP — Austin. Hitting — CU: Smith 4-5 (RBI), Johnston 1-3 (R), Miller 1-4 (2 R), Wenger 1-3 (RBI, R), Blevins 2-4 (2 RBI), Groves 2-4 (RBI, R), Brockway 1-3.
UC:r 3-3 (R), Collin 1-4, Hill 1-4, Shraer 1-3.