The Terre Haute Rex are fighting for a Prospect League playoff spot. The West Virginia Miners are in last place in the East Division and playing out the string.
When this happens in Major League Baseball? You will usually see a team playing all of its principal players against prospects.
In the Prospect League? It’s a bit different. Terre Haute fielded its usual full team against the Miners at Bob Warn Field on Wednesday. The Miners, however, were severely short-handed due to injuries and players returning to their respective schools.
How short-handed? The Miners used a pitcher to start the game at first base. And after West Virginia starting pitcher CJ Growney hit his pitch limit in the fifth inning? The Miners paraded one position player after another on the mound just to make it through the game.
In their quest to chase down Chillicothe or Danville for a Prospect League playoff spot? The Rex weren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Terre Haute defeated West Virginia 11-4 as the Miners’ predictably fell apart on the mound once the parade of non-pitchers began to take the mound.
“We knew the situation they were in, but sometimes those teams are the scariest,” Rex manager Tyler Wampler said. “I thought we did well against some softer throwing arms. In the past, we’ve struggled against that, so it was good for our guys to get some good AB’s against them.”
At first, it was the Rex on the back foot. West Virginia had six base hits in the first two innings against Rex starter Clayton Mayfield. Many were off soft contact, including RBI singles by Brock Randels and Tynan Shahidi to fuel a 3-0 start for the Miners.
The Rex answered with a run in the first via an Austin Weiler single as Terre Haute began to chip away at Growney. In the third, Justin Jenkins’ RBI single made it 3-2.
Shortstop Jeremy Houston had the big blow for the Rex as he lined a solo home run just over the left field fence to tie the game in the fourth.
“When the pitchers made mistakes tonight? We capitalized. Hopefully we can continue doing that as we try to make a playoff run,” Houston said.
By the fifth, Growney had hit the mandatory pitch limit and the Miners were in trouble. West Virginia only had 14 players available and only eight were position players. The Miners played a doubleheader on Tuesday and had no pitching to go to.
So West Virginia turned to designated hitter Kyle Schaefer to pitch – with predictable results. Terre Haute had already taken a 5-3 lead via a two-base, two-run error against Growney, but once Schaefer entered? A two-run double by Jacob Mulcahy made it 7-3 and then three walks and a single followed. The Rex led 8-3 by the time West Virginia managed to retire the side.
The Miners later turned to second baseman Randels, who threw what amounted to batting practice pitches. The Rex scored three more runs, all via a bases-clearing double off the top of the center field wall by Weiler.
Even though the pitching display resembled comedy more so than baseball, it’s still a challenge for the Rex batters to deal with it. Soft-toss is not expected in a real game at the plate.
“The big part is trying to work on something still. Even though they’re throwing position players out there, the game isn’t over. You just work on your game and hope you get better from it,” Houston said.
The victory will pull Terre Haute within a game of either Danville or Chillicothe as the Dans and Paints played each other in Danville on Wednesday.
As far as any benefit from playing West Virginia? The tables turn after Wednesday. Terre Haute may have played a Miners team that barely had enough players to field a team, but after taking advantage of the Miners? The Rex will have to watch from afar as one of the teams they’re chasing – Chillicothe – will play West Virginia five more times. The Paints will have their chance to take advantage of a farcical Miners roster situation.
“It’s frustrating, especially when you’re trying your best to keep your roster full. I know how tough it is to keep guys healthy and keep the roster full, but it’s unfortunate. Hopefully, they can beat Chillicothe a few times down the stretch,” Wampler said.
Matters get far more serious for the Rex starting tonight. Terre Haute travels to Danville. It’s the first of three games against Danville to finish the season – all of them taking place at Danville Stadium.
“Our guys know where we stand. They understand we still control our own destiny. We play Danville three more times and we want to go out there, compete, and do our best against them. They’re ready to push it until the end,” Wampler said.
WEST VIRGINIA (AB-R-H-RBI) – Mehlbauer c 5-1-1-0, Walls rf 4-1-1-0, Pasillas c 4-0-2-0, Mulhall 3b 4-1-2-2, Schaefer 2b-dh-p 4-1-0-0, Randels 2b-p 4-0-1-1, Shahidi cf 4-0-1-1, Freimuth lf 4-0-1-0, Rucker 1b 4-0-1-0. TOTALS 37-4-10-4.
TERRE HAUTE (AB-R-H-RBI) – Beck lf 4-0-0-0, Jenkins cf-p 4-1-2-2, Garrity rf 3-2-1-0, Weiler 1b 4-1-2-4, McCleary c 5-1-0-1, Mulcahy 3b 5-1-2-1, Houston ss 5-1-2-1, Booe dh 2-2-1-0, Bridge cf 0-0-0-0, Hayes 2b 5-2-3-0. TOTALS 37-11-13-9.
E – Walls, Rucker; Beck. DP – WV 1, TH 1. LOB – WV 7, TH 10. 2B – Weiler, Mulcahy. HR – Mulhall; Houston. S - Garrity. SB – Jenkins, Garrity.
Growney (L)=4 1/3=7=6=5=2=2
WP – Schaefer. HBP – by Randels (Booe). T – 2:34. A – 578.
Next – The Rex (32-22) play at Danville and West Virginia (18-36) plays at Chillicothe on Thursday.