West Virginia Power: Suns eclipse rookie's continued roll
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Power first baseman Jordan Steranka figures there are people who wonder how he'll fare in the spot Stetson Allie dominated for the first half of the South Atlantic League season.
Steranka admits he's a different kind of hitter than Allie, a long bomber who started the season's second half with the advanced Class A Bradenton Marauders. But he's out to prove different isn't a bad thing.
"I'm just going to play my game," Steranka said. "I have confidence in that."
He's rewarded Power Manager Mike Ryan's confidence in him so far, driving in West Virginia's first run of the night Monday against the Hagerstown Suns. But the Suns struck back with a seven-run sixth inning to win 12-5 at Appalachian Power Park.
Steranka's first five games with West Virginia (3-2, 40-35) have been his first five professional games, despite being drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round out of Penn State last season. He was diagnosed with mononucleosis around the time of the draft and, by the time he was cleared to play in August, the organization felt it better to keep him on the shelf to regain his strength. The time off benefited him, allowing him to regain most of the 25 pounds he lost to illness
"It was tough," he said. "This offseason, that's all I really worked on, eating healthy and trying to gain weight back through workouts and stuff. I'm right around where I was at, maybe a few pounds less, but it's better muscle.
"It's one of the positives I took from it," he added. "I took all the bad out and kind of built it back up stronger."
Steranka stayed in extended spring training, though Ryan said he would have loved to have the 6-foot-1, 205-pound 23-year old from the beginning of the season. Ryan quickly put Steranka in the starting lineup at cleanup and after an 0-for-5 start in his first game, he's now batting .375 after his 2-for-5 night Monday. His first-inning RBI single up the middle gave him five RBI since joining the Power.
Centerfielder Barrett Barnes provided more of the Power's offense Monday night with RBI singles in the second and fourth innings.
It looked like a comfortable 3-0 lead for West Virginia over the Suns (4-1, 42-30) until the bullpen fell apart starting in the sixth. Reliever Clario Perez gave up five runs on three hits in the sixth. Three of those runs came on a Pedro Severino double to left.
Bryton Trepagnier came in for Perez, but two more runs came across from a wild Trepagnier pitch and an RBI groundout from Shawn Pleffner.
The Power scored two runs in the seventh, on Raul Fortunato and Kawika Emsley-Pai RBI singles, to inch closer, but a Suns run in the eighth off a Tony Renda double and a Wes Schill grand slam in the ninth off Pat Ludwig iced the game.
Ryan likes Steranka's intellectual approach to the plate. Steranka said he has some power, but is more of a gap hitter, batting for average with a little bit of speed on the basepaths. He might not match the 17 home runs Allie blasted in the first half, but Ryan said he'll do a fine job of producing runs.
"He's going to drive in runs just because of his approach," Ryan said. "He's a big-time hitter. When there's runners on base, he has such a great approach that he's going to get a hit and drive him in."
The Power's series with Hagerstown continues at 7:05 tonight. Clay Holmes (2-5, 5.26 ERA) is scheduled to start for West Virginia versus the Suns' Brett Mooneyham (3-1, 2.05 ERA).
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BARNES WAS named the South Atlantic League's player of the week for June 17-23, after batting .350 with two home runs, three doubles and nine RBI while scoring four runs in that span. Barnes is the second Power player to win the award, and it's the Power's third player-of-the-week honor overall. Allie won it twice before his promotion to Bradenton.
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.