West Virginia Black Bears Remain Afloat Around .500

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The Short-Season, Low-A West Virginia Black Bears walked away with the minor league’s New York-Penn League title in 2015. The 2016 Black Bears present forward a slightly different story.

Seeing Stars

The 2016 squad has had its fair share of ups and downs in 2016, and on their highest note, the club saw six players earn All-Star selections: pitchers Daniel Beddes and Brandon Bingel, catcher Kevin Krause, infielder Kevin Mahala, and outfielders Hunter Owen and Sandy Santos. In the league’s version of the midsummer classic in Wappingers Falls, NY, Owen recorded an RBI, Beddes pitched and gave up a home run, and Kevin Krause caught the final four innings of the South squad’s 9-5 victory over the North team.

“I wasn’t the highest pick or anything like that, but it’s cool to see some people, whether they’re free agents or first-round picks, to see that everybody is the same, they just go about it differently,” Beddes told MiLB.com’s Kelsie Haneghan.

Krause noted to Haneghan that “It’s very exciting to be here, especially after last year, recovering from Tommy John surgery. To be at this stage, I’m honored to be amongst my peers. To get to close out the All-Star game is great.”

Not Out of it Yet

The Black Bears entered Saturday’s play versus Mahoning Valley (Indians) with a 31-35 record and they sit 7.5 games back of NYPL Wild Card leader Staten Island (Yankees) and they sit 12.0 games back of State College (Cardinals) in the league’s Pinckney division. The Black Bears were eliminated from division contention this past week.

Arms Race

The bright spots have mainly come within the pitching staff, and specifically, starter Daniel Beddes and reliever Brandon Bingel. Both pitchers were 2016 draft picks of the Pirates – Beddes in the 15th round and Bingel in the 22nd round. Beddes has led the starting rotation this season as he sits at 5-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 59.2 innings on the season. His walk rate has been exceptional (49 K/18 BB) and he holds a 0.96 WHIP.

Bingel checks in at 0-2 with a 1.33 ERA in 14 relief appearances. He has allowed 14 hits and six runs (three earned) in 20.1 innings while walking seven and fanning 16 batters. His WHIP sits at 1.03 in his first season of professional baseball.

“It’s been a grind. (Laughs) Coming off the college season has been difficult. It has its pros and cons but I’ve had a lot of fun so far. I’ve been working to establish my fastball. Then later in the count and as the game goes on I like to work in my secondary pitches,” he said.

“We’re playing for each other. We’re believing in each other and we believe that we can get it to the next guy so they can go do their job,” Beddes said of the team coming together late into the season.

From The Manager

In addition, Black Bears manager Wyatt Toregas commented on Beddes and his progression in his first season in professional baseball.

“He’s very competitive. He has good stuff and he knows where he wants to put it. He pitches other teams very tough. He reads swings, and he takes what the other team gives him and he uses it against them. I’d love to say he throws really hard or has one really good pitch, but he doesn’t. He just has a really good feel for this game and how to pitch,” Toregas noted.

Toregas also commented on the team’s season and how it truly has been a different season in West Virginia.

“This team is different than last year’s. The consistency has taken a little longer to get to. Last year’s team was able to get more consistent earlier in the season. This year, we finally got to where we needed to be, but we hit it a little too late (in regards to the postseason race),” he commented.

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“I think Luis Escobar has been the most improved player between Opening Day and now. He’s pitching extremely well. I think Stephan Meyer struggled early on and the last five of six have been good starts. Chris Harvey has been a big part (in our turnaround)… working with pitchers and he’s hitting around .300, which for a guy who really wasn’t supposed to play a lot from the start of the year, he’s created a good situation for himself,” Toregas said of his improving club.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys, but the big thing for us has been consistency. There’s some days where I feel we’re the best team in the league and the next day we’ll come out and make a bunch of errors. I think we have the talent, but we just need to get them older and a little more experience,” Toregas believes.

The End is Near

In conclusion, the Black Bears wrap their season up following a series on the road in Mahoning Valley, at home versus Batavia (Marlins), on the road at Auburn (Nationals), and at home versus Mahoning Valley.

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Also, Corey Crisan is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Rum Bunter on the FanSided family of networks. Follow him on twitter @cdcrisan.

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