Power opens second half with 9-4 loss to BlueClaws
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The roster looked a little different in a couple of important spots for the West Virginia Power in its first game of the South Atlantic League's second half Thursday night.
First baseman Stetson Allie's big bat and the strong left arms of pitchers Joely Rodriguez and Orlando Castro are now in Florida, promoted to the Bradenton Marauders.
Yet Power Manager Mike Ryan said the strategy wouldn't change as new faces entered his lineup. The mission will continue to be developing young players to possibly join Allie and company at the higher levels.
"We're just going to do what we do," he said. "We're just going to plug guys in where we think they'll have success and where we think they can move up to Bradenton and have success there also."
The Power hopes the start of its second half eclipses the start of its first half, where it lost six of its first seven games. It didn't get off on the greatest foot, with a 9-4 loss to the Lakewood BlueClaws at Appalachian Power Park.
Those early stumbles forced the Power to cover a lot of ground, and they did a pretty good job of it, dominating all of May and the first part of June. West Virginia finished the first half 2 1/2 games out of first place in the SAL Northern Division.
Losing Allie's offense (.324 batting average, 17 home runs, 61 RBI) and the mound presence of Rodriguez (5-5, 2.72 ERA) and Castro (7-4, 1.93 ERA) is tough, but the Power returns a ton of talent and gains some more. Four of the Power's six SAL All-Stars - outfielder Josh Bell, infielders Dilson Herrera and Walker Gourley and pitcher Tyler Glasnow are back. West Virginia also welcomes pitcher Luis Heredia, who entered the season as Baseball America's No. 3 prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system.
"He's in the same category of Glasnow and (Clay) Holmes as far as having a big arm and being a high prospect in this organization," Ryan said. "It's going to be exciting to watch him throw."
Holmes started Thursday night's game, but was out after giving up four earned runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings. The Power (0-1, 37-34) pulled into a 4-4 tie with back-to-back two-run innings in the third and fourth, but the BlueClaws (1-0, 27-41) scored a run in both the fifth and sixth to seal the game.
Lakewood's fifth-inning run came when Power reliever Clario Perez threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt, which allowed Art Charles to score. In the sixth, Alejandro Villalobos scored on a fielder's choice. Gourley paced West Virginia at the plate, going 3-for-4 with one RBI.
While West Virginia's arms will still be lively, they'll be young. That, reliever Pat Ludwig said, might necessitate leaning on the bullpen a little bit more.
"Joely and Castro did a fantastic job of going deep into games every time they took the mound," Ludwig said. "Those young guys, they just aren't going to let them go as far. It's going to put more innings on us, and I think we've got guys who've established they can give you three or four (innings) out of the bullpen without much trouble."
One thing the players don't expect to change is the cohesiveness of the locker room. They say that helped the Power rebound from that rough start as much as anything.
"There are levels and teams I've been on that aren't as close as you'd like to be," outfielder Jonathan Schwind said. "It kind of reminds me when I played in high school, when everybody loved being there and loved playing. That's the same here. Everyone's pulling for each other."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.