Have arm, will travel.
For 18-year-old left-hander Jace Miner, who finished up his scholastic career at Brookville Area High School this spring, it’s on to new ballfields and opponents.
Last Thursday night, he made his pitching debut for the Elizabethton River Riders of the Appalachian League. Elizabethton is located in eastern Tennessee.
Miner pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one and walking one in the River Riders’ 9-2 win. The first batter he faced was UCLA’s Jared Karros, the son of former longtime major league player Eric who just finished his freshman year.
Then in Sunday’s 10-9 loss to Johnson City, Miner went 1 2/3 hitless innings, striking out two and allowing an unearned run.
Due to the reformatting of the minor league baseball system by Major League Baseball, the Appalachian League is no longer a short-season affiliate that traditionally rostered mostly players who were drafted earlier in the summer.
Now, it’s a 10-team summer collegiate baseball league, part of MLB’s and USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline. USA Baseball handles on- and off-field operations and administration of the league which has four teams in Tennessee, three in Virginia, two in West Virginia and one in North Carolina.
Miner’s future pitching coach at Wichita State, Mike Pelfrey, hooked Miner up.
“Coach Pelfrey helped me with this and when I told him I was interested in playing, he said he’d make a call and see if they had a spot and about a day later, we had one,” Miner said Wednesday afternoon. “This is a huge opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up and it feels awesome to be here. It feels rewarding, but at the same time, we have a lot more work to do.”
He’s certainly the youngest player on the team, up to five years younger than some, and the second-youngest player in the league but he’s ready for the challenges ahead.
“I’m the youngest (on team), but I also feel like there a pretty good family here, so I’m just waiting for the games to meet more of the guys,” Miner said. “There will be a pitch count and the way they’re looking at it is that they don’t want to get too many innings as I walk into Wichita State. They might throw you three to four innings, so we have enough guys on the staff where we don’t need to do that so that’s the game plan.”
The league’s 54-game season runs through Aug. 7 with a one-game championship game scheduled for Aug. 9. Miner reports to Wichita State Aug. 12.
With the Raiders, Miner went 3-1 with a 1.58 earned run average in eight outings, striking out 70 batters in just 35 1/3 innings. He also led the Raiders in hitting with a .474 average and 10 extra-base hits.
Since high school, Miner has thrown a couple short outings for the Pulaski Generals, one for Team Louisiana’s 17U squad and the East Coast Sandhogs twice, including one outing on Staten Island and another at Keystone College, both in June. Miner threw a five-inning no-hitter with 12 strikeouts at Keystone College in a 17U Central Pennsylvania Elite Summer Championship.
According to Perfect Game, Miner was the No. 81-ranked left-handed arm in the 2021 Class, but his hitting 95 mph on his fastball created even more buzz around Miner who was already in the low 90s. Miner threw for both Team Louisiana and the Sand Hogs last year and after committing initially to the University of Hartford in the spring of 2020, he de-committed and committed to Wichita State last September. Clearly, his stock has continued to rise for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Miner who helped lead the Raiders basketball team reach the PIAA Class AAA finals in March and he garnered all-state recognition.
Miner indicated that he had some contact with MLB teams, but he wound up not getting drafted among the 20 rounds that ended Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s pretty cool, very stressful and it’s learning a lot of things crammed into a shorter amount of time than we thought,” said Miner, referring to him and his family during the pre-draft dealings. “This was brought to our attention very recently that there is a chance, a possibility that I could have this route and we’ve had some great interactions with some scouts.”
So for now, it’s Miner’s aim to keep working hard, see what happens in the draft, and prepare for a college career at Wichita State this fall.
“I’m super-excited,” Miner said. “It’s something that’s been a big goal of mine that I want to reach. I’m super-close, I feel and still have plenty of work to do, so I’m pretty pumped.”