Preston finds similar game with WV Tech

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

It’ll be different, and yet it will be the same.

That’s what Ironton catcher Dustin Preston is expecting from the college game after signing a letter-of-intent Monday to play baseball for the West Virginia Tech Golden Bears.

“It’ll be different. It’ll be a faster-paced game,” Preston said. “But I play travel baseball in the summer and the pitchers throw hard, so that should be the same.”

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West Virginia Tech, 18-13 last season, is switching from Division II to NAIA this fall which brings a new league and level of competition.

Preston said the change was another factor in his decision. However, friend Jared Murphy will play football at Tech and one of the baseball team’s members is former Ironton pitcher Greg Linn.

Also heading for Tech is summer league teammate Greg Latimer of Greenup County, Ky.

“Their program is moving in a new direction and quite a few of my friends are there,” Preston said.

Preston, a two-time coaches all-district selection, finished his senior season with a .379 batting average, five home runs, nine doubles and 24 runs batted in. He hit .374 for his career with 13 home runs which tied him for eighth place on the all-time Ironton list.

“He’ll do well at the college level,” Ironton baseball coach Mark Lewis said. “He’ll be able to put more time in his game and they will be able to develop him.”

Preston recently had arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a rotator cuff injury, but he said the shoulder will be 100 percent once it heals.

“The doctor said it will be three months before I’m cleared, so I’ll be on the junior varsity team the first year,” Preston said. “But coach (Tim Epling) told me it I work hard, I’ll have a good chance of being the starting catcher my sophomore year.”

Lewis said Preston’s defensive skills improved during his senior season, especially his ability to throw hard and accurately to second base.

“He improved his throwing even though his shoulder bothered him,” Lewis said.

Preston said he was proud of his defensive improvement.

“I think I’ll be able to throw out runners at the college level. No one stole on me in high school unless it was a bad pitch. My defense has improved over the years,” Preston said.

Dustin is the son of Kim and Bernie Preston of Ironton.