KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Bluefield College baseball coach Mike White describes his approach to recruiting as a “hodgepodge.”
Over the last five years, the former Castlewood High School baseball star has attracted a deep cast of players from high schools and junior colleges around the East Coast. While the roster is diverse, there is one common theme. The Rams love to hit.
Bluefield entered Saturday’s opening round of the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament ranked among the nation’s top NAIA teams with a batting average of nearly .360.
The third-seeded Rams collected 20 more hits Saturday en route to a 17-2 win over the No. 6 University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“We recruit kids with character, and we’ve been fortunate to find some pretty good athletes along the way,” White said.
The Rams returned seven seniors from last year’s National Christian College Athletic Association World Series championship squad.
With speedy leadoff man Devin Good (Baltimore, Md.) setting a torrid pace, Bluefield has compiled a 36-13 record this season.
The rampage continued Saturday, as BC built a 15-2 margin after three innings. Brothers Andrew and Travis Weaver (Weyers Cave, Va.) combined for nine hits, while senior Jeremiah McMillian (Roanoke, Va.) drove in six runs on four hits. Good, who has attracted interest from two Major League teams, scored three runs on two hits.
“We’ve got a special group of seniors that have bought in to what we’re trying to do. And things have gotten better every year,” White said.
White learned the basics of hitting while playing for coach Ray Spenilla at Castlewood and Virginia-Wise. After making the All-AAC team three times, White served as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Virginia-Wise for five years.
Senior infielder Tony Singleton, currently in the .445 range, came to Bluefield after playing high school baseball in the Richmond area and attending Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, Va.
After adjusting to the slower lifestyle in Bluefield, Singleton and his teammates found a universal language.
“To be honest, I have no idea how all our guys found out about Bluefield,” Singleton said. “We all love to hit, though. And we’re as old-school as you can get.”
Singleton appreciates the opportunity to play home games at historic Bowen Field, home of the Bluefield Orioles. He also enjoys White’s bottom-line approach to the game.
For Singleton, the NCCA title last season in Ohio just adds to the incentive for the AAC tourney.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot to prove,” Singleton said. “This game was definitely a statement.”
There was little good news for Virginia-Wise. The Cavaliers (27-20) made four errors and were forced to use four pitchers in the seven-inning game.
The scheduled starter for Wise (Ryan Crosby) was unable to pitch due to an illness. Freshman catcher Tommy Meir (Ashburn, Va.) led Wise with two hits.
“It was just one of those days,” said junior centerfield Bradley Ricker, who contributed a single and two running catches for the Cavaliers.
Ricker, a former standout at John Battle, is among the most versatile athletes in the AAC. In addition to playing in three AAC baseball tournaments, Ricker has doubled as a receiver for the Virginia-Wise football team.
“I was just coming in to play football that first year, but then I wanted to try baseball as well,” Ricker said. “I haven’t had much free time, but it’s been real good experience.”
Virginia-Wise will face second-seeded Union Monday morning at 11.
Junior Luis Roa (Puerto Rico) tops the Cavaliers with a .400 batting average, while senior Brad Robbins (Powell Valley) has a .395 average with nine homers and 54 RBIs. Roa added two more hits Saturday.
The success of the Rams is impressive considering the harsh weather in Bluefield.
“We had to do a lot of work indoors and we struggled a little bit early in the year, but the kids have really come on the last two weeks,” White said.
While many college coaches struggled to find the right formula in recruiting, White said the key is having a durable car and plenty of connections.
“You put a lot of miles on your car and spend a lot of time away from your wife,” White said. “I’m fortunate to have some friends in the game who know what kind of players we are looking for in our college and baseball program.”
Brandon Holloway, who played on Bluefield’s NCCAA title team last season, is now pitching in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system.
Seventh-seeded Bryan upset No. 2 Union, 5-3, Saturday morning while top seed Tennessee Wesleyan (37-14) dropped No. 8 Montreat 12-9 Saturday evening.
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