Bell, Power thump Suns for 11-2 win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After the last two games, the West Virginia Power was happy to be the team doing the hitting rather than the one taking the hits.
The Power, led by Josh Bell's 4-for-5, four-RBI performance, thumped the Hagerstown Suns 11-2 on Sunday afternoon at Appalachian Power Park.
It was a reversal of fortunes for West Virginia (8-10), which had been outscored by the Suns (10-8) 27-6 on Friday and Saturday. Hagerstown pounded West Virginia 13-2 on Friday and 14-4 on Saturday.
"That's really nice," Bell said of the Power's big bats. "Sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce our way and it's just nice to do that to another team."
Bell and Walker Gourley dominated at the plate for West Virginia. Bell's home run in the fifth was his second of the season and his batting average leaped 38 points after Sunday's game. He came into Sunday batting .250 and left at .288.
"It was a good day today, for sure," Bell said. "I'm seeing the ball really well right now. Hopefully, I can keep it up."
Bell, who Baseball America ranks as the Pittsburgh Pirates' sixth-best prospect, has been working back from a 10-month layoff following meniscus surgery. Power Manager Mike Ryan said he could tell during spring training Bell was rusty from the time away, but had the benefit of that spring training to work out the kinks and enter the season with confidence.
"Probably about halfway through spring training, he flipped the switch to where he started feeling comfortable," Ryan said. "He's not at his best yet ... but he's very close."
Gourley went 4-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
The Power jumped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third. The first run came home on an Ashley Ponce single to shallow center field. Suns center fielder Wander Ramos tried to sprint in for a sliding catch, but couldn't come up with the ball, allowing Gourley to cross home plate.
Bell then added a line-drive single to right that scored Max Moroff and Eric Wood brought Ponce home on a sacrifice fly. Ramos came back in the top of the fourth with a two-run home run to right, but Bell responded in the fifth with his homer over the center field fence to give the Power a 4-2 lead. Stetson Allie then scored on a fielder's choice to make it 5-2, West Virginia.
A Bell chopper up the first-base line and past a diving Tony Renda added two more Power runs and gave the big right fielder his fourth hit of the game. West Virginia added five more runs in the sixth, including Barrett Barnes' first two RBI as a member of the Power. Barnes, the Pirates' No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America, doubled to center to bring home Bell and Allie.
"I've been struggling a little bit, but I've kind of slowed the game down to get myself back in the groove," Barnes said. "I felt pretty good today."
The Power also got a solid nine innings from its pitching staff, something that hasn't always been a guarantee this season. West Virginia is one of the South Atlantic League's best at the plate, third in the league with a .273 batting average entering Sunday. The pitching staff, however, was last in the league entering Sunday's game with a 5.65 ERA.
A foursome of Power pitchers - starter and winner Orlando Castro, Ryan Hafner, Josh Smith and Kyle Haynes - scattered eight hits over nine innings. Castro (2-1) pitched five innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs, striking out three and walking one.
"The thing I like about (Castro) is he mixes speeds well and he likes to dominate the inside part of the plate," Ryan said. "The way he competes, he's not the biggest guy in the world, but he has huge heart. He establishes his fastball in, and that makes his other pitches even that much more effective."
Hagerstown starter Brian Dupra (1-1) took the loss, allowing five earned runs on seven hits through four innings, walking four and striking out two.
The Power takes today off before another seven-game road trip. First come three games at the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs on Tuesday through Thursday, followed by four games at the Savannah Sand Gnats on Friday through Monday, April 29.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.