Bullpen Trio Slams Door - Sussex County Miners
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Bullpen Trio Slams Door

Bullpen Trio Slams Door


     Mixing ingredients doesn’t just happen in chemistry laboratories. It happens at the ballpark, too.

     And, while “Miller, Mediavilla, and Klinchock” might sound like a formidable law firm, it’s actually the winning combination in the Miners bullpen that has played a huge role in the team’s first-place success so far this year.

     Manager Bobby Jones has mixed and matched the three relievers in and out of tight spots all year, usually hitting the right buttons at the perfect moments. The numbers prove the case:

     Jalen Miller Sr. leads the team with 33 appearances and an incredible 0.54 ERA.

     Mike Mediavilla has made 27 appearances and boasts his own unbelievable ERA of 1.42.

     Robert Klinchock has made 29 appearances and his 4.31 ERA may not look so spectacular, but it is definitely deceiving. Over his first 14 games, he sported a 1.59 ERA. Since then, two rough outings out of his next 15 caused his ERA to inflate.

     “Miller, Mediavilla, and Klinchock.”  They specialize in one- or two-inning outings, just when they’re needed the most. 

     Miller has been out of this world – and perhaps the biggest surprise of all.

     After attending Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., he pitched in five different independent leagues, most recently appearing in 29 games with a 3.89 ERA for the Chicago Dogs, of the American Association, in 2020.

     So far this season with Sussex County, the 28-year-old righthander has worked 33 1/3 innings in 33 games, giving up just two earned runs while striking out 48 batters. On Sunday, he pitched 1 1/3 innings and struck out two batters in his 20th straight appearance without yielding a run. That came after a Saturday night job, going one inning and striking out the side.

     Mediavilla was a 34th-round draft choice out of the University of Miami in 2018 but given little opportunity by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2019, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound lefty appeared in 16 games and posted an 0.92 ERA for the Brewers Class-A team in the Midwest League.

     The 25-year-old threw one inning of shutout ball on Sunday, making it 31 2/3 innings for the season, with 35 Ks. Earlier this year, the Hialeah, Fla., native had a scoreless streak of 10 games in a row, and another of six games in a row.

     Klinchock is another big lefty who made his 29th appearance Friday night, throwing one shutout inning with no hits and one strikeout.

     A 24-year-old from Pittsburgh, he was the Detroit Tigers’ 35th-round draft pick out of Shenandoah University in 2019 but was given just 12 appearances in Detroit’s farm system.



     After Sunday’s loss, the Miners now have 32 games remaining on the regular-season schedule – 17 at home and 15 away.

     The future begins tomorrow night with a three-game series on the road against the New York Boulders, followed by a three-game road series vs. the Tri-City ValleyCats.

     That will conclude the current nine-game stretch of road games, the longest of the season. 

     Nine of the remaining 15 away games will be back in Troy, N.Y., facing Tri-City.

     Over the course of the 96-game season, the Miners were scheduled to face Tri-City a total of 31 times – more than any other opponent all year. There were 19 games scheduled against New York, 18 against New Jersey, 15 against Quebec, 10 against Washington (all at home) and three home games against the Florence Y’Alls.

     To make the Frontier League playoffs, the Miners will have to finish first in the three-team Northeast Division, spending today’s off-day with a 3 1/2-game lead over Washington and an 8 1/2-game lead over New Jersey.

     In head-to-head confrontations, Sussex County will face the Wild Things just once more this season – a four-game weekend series at Skylands Stadium concluding with a rare Monday night game on Labor Day, Sept. 6.

     Similarly, there will be just one more showdown with the Jackals – a three-game, mid-week series at Skylands Stadium beginning Aug. 24.

     The Miners have led the Northeast standings virtually every day of the season. Meanwhile, Tri-City, New York, and Washington are all in the final scramble for the Atlantic Division pennant, and their games down the stretch against the Miners could prove decisive in that race.

     And then there are the Florence Y’Alls, representing Florence, Ky., across the Ohio River and 12 miles south of Cincinnati. They’re in their own nip-and-tuck battle with the Evansville Otters for the top spot in the Frontier’s West Division, but they’ll make the 640-mile trek to Augusta for a three-game series next week.

     Because of the pandemic, the league limited this year’s travel schedule to virtually zero inter-conference play. The Miners-Y’alls series was the only one that survived between the Can-Am Conference Miners and the Midwestern Conference Y’Alls.

     And, speaking of travel, the Miners will, indeed, be making a 500-mile trip to Canada to face Equipe Quebec in a three-game series beginning Aug. 31. Earlier trips were converted into Miners home games as the Quebec team played most of the season as a homeless, road-only team while the U.S.-Canada border remained closed due to Covid.

    The Miners will end the regular season hosting Quebec for a four game series at Skylands, including a rainout-caused doubleheader on Sept. 10 and finishing up on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 12.

By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.