When Tim Epling first saw Marty Wiesler play, the Paw Paw resident was playing third base for Keyser’s Post 41 American Legion team. Back then, Wiesler was used strictly as a closer when he pitched.

It just so happened that Epling got to see Wiesler pitch that day, and he was quickly sold.

“When I saw his arm,” the WVU Tech coach said, “I told him that I could work with him and turn him into a pitcher. That’s what we’ve done over the last four years.”

The result has been the transformation of Wiesler into one of the top pitchers in NAIA Division I. Of course, to an extent he’s fortunate to be pitching, period.

For all the potential Epling saw, harnessing it proved to be a problem at first.

“I couldn’t throw strikes. It wasn’t good,” Wiesler recalled. “I hit a lot of people — and I still do. I was more worried about throwing hard.”

Epling’s memories of Wiesler’s first days in the program evoke images of Charlie Sheen’s “Wild Thing” days in the “Major League” movies.

“When Marty first came into the program, I refused to even let him throw in the intrasquad (game) because he put four of our guys on the (disabled list) the first week,” Epling said. “Oh, he’d throw it in the dugout, he’d throw it into the backstop. He didn’t know where it was going.”

As it turned out, a few mechanical changes was all it took to change Wiesler’s fortunes. He made the transition from reliever to starter last season and now has scouts from the Braves, Mets, Pirates and Royals watching him pitch.

The biggest change has been an overhaul of Wiesler’s delivery.

“He did throw about three-quarters when he got here,” Epling said. “We dropped him down underneath to where he threw kind of sidearmed. All of a sudden some things started jelling for him.

“I think it’s a little bit awkward (for opposing hitters). A lot of guys don’t see somebody throw that hard underneath like that.”

Wiesler can point to different occasions as proof to how tough he is on batters. Last season, he and Justin Maynard combined to no-hit UVa-Wise.

Then, on Feb. 28, in the biggest baseball moment of Wiesler’s life, he tossed his second no-hitter. This time, he worked alone and the gem came against Division I Marshall.

“Everyone was playing great defense,” Wiesler said, deflecting the credit. “Everyone played just as much a part of it as I did. It was definitely a team effort.”

“Basically he threw his changeup a lot,” Epling said. “He just spotted his pitches and made them swing at pitches out of the strike zone. He got them behind in the count.”

Wiesler’s efforts were a big reason why the Golden Bears won their first six games and were 13-5 going into their first season of Mid-South Conference play. At one point, the Tech pitching staff had thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings. They had three one-hitters and a pair of two-hitters in addition to Wiesler’s no-no.

Unfortunately, the Bears have found life in the Mid-South quite rough. A 13-game losing streak, mostly in conference play, has Tech 3-15 in the league. Tech won four of its last seven to close the regular season at 19-23 overall.

The Bears were the bottom seed in the six-team MSC tournament, which kicked off April 26. (For tournament results, see an upcoming edition.)

Pitching has not been the problem. Tech still ranks No. 20 in NAIA Division I in opponents’ batting average (.250), 22nd in hits allowed (6.8 per game) and 39th in strikeouts (5.9 per game).

Wiesler himself is second in the nation in innings pitched (8.208), seventh in opponents’ batting average (.175) and ninth in hits (5.76 per nine innings).

“(The staff) has been unbelievable,” Wiesler said. “We’ve had a pretty good staff all five years I’ve been here. Everybody is on the same page.”

The problem for Tech has been a lack of timely offense. Tech was outscored 73-30 and didn’t score more than four runs in a game during the 13-game skid.

Because of that, Wiesler and the other pitchers have gotten little help. Wiesler carried a 5-5 record into the tournament, but his ERA is an impressive 2.60.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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