West Virginia Power: Bell leads sweep of Greenville
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Power outfielder Josh Bell said it's always fun to play baseball for a living, but when you're surging like he and his teammates have been since April 29, your days can't get much better.
"It's awesome," Bell said. "It's a grind and the bus rides are a definite grind, but when you're going out to war with a group guys that are all playing well and all have each other's backs, that makes it a lot easier."
In sweeping Wednesday's doubleheader with the Greenville Drive, 7-3 and 7-6, the Power also swept the four-game series and climbed to .500 for the season (16-16). West Virginia has won five consecutive games and seven of its last eight.
"We want to pitch it, we want to pick it up and we want to run the bases aggressively," Power Manager Mike Ryan said. "It's a recipe for success and it's been showing. We're starting to play better in close games where we're not putting pressure on our defense because we've been playing some really good defense.
"The nervousness is going away. We're really aggressive on the bases and we're getting outstanding pitching, which is the story of what we're going to be."
In the first game, the Power waded through soggy conditions to post the win. West Virginia jumped to a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Drive starter Cody Kukuk walked in the first run, then gave up a two-run single to right to Power catcher Francisco Diaz. D.J. Crumlich then came home on a Raul Fortunato fielder's choice.
Greenville cut the lead to 4-3 in the fifth when Power starter Clay Holmes walked Mookie Betts and Cody Coback, then gave way on the mound to Thomas Harlan. Harlan gave up a single, then walked home both Betts and Coback. West Virginia responded with a Diaz RBI single in the fifth and a towering two-run home run from Bell in the sixth, his fifth of the year.
Ryan said Holmes, Harland and Kyle Haynes all pitched well despite adverse weather. The skies opened up about halfway through the seven-inning first game and threatened to end that contest after five innings. But the rain subsided long enough to get through.
"Those were tough conditions," Ryan said. "They did a good job. Holmes did a nice job with what he could. He didn't have his best stuff, but he pitched with it and did a fairly good job. Harlan came in and did a great job with those conditions as far as the mound not being very good and spikes covered in mud."
The sun came out for the second game, which allowed starter Joely Rodriguez to pitch six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out five. The Power drilled Drive starter Jason Garcia for six runs, three earned. West Virginia scored four in the second inning and three in the fifth.
The Power did so without an extra-base hit, getting RBI from Jonathan Schwind, Ashley Ponce, Dilson Herrera, Wyatt Mathisen and Walker Gourley. The Drive started to rally with two outs in the seventh, but could only muster six runs, as reliever Josh Smith handed the ball over to Bryton Trepagnier for the final out and Trepagnier's second save of the season.
"Joely, with his start today, really saved us, not just for tomorrow but for the next few days, as far as saving our bullpen and stuff like that," Ryan said. "Not only does one game affect next, but it affects the next three or four and he set us up nicely for the road trip coming up."
The Power begins a seven-game road trip today in Lexington, playing four games before moving to a three-game series at Hickory. Bell said there's no reason why the momentum built in the last eight games can't continue on the road.
"Our roster is unbelievable," Bell said. "And I think we're just starting to show what we can do. May's going to be a huge month for us to start making a run for this thing. Hopefully, we can keep the ball rolling."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.