Minor League Baseball: Greensboro outduels Power, 1-0
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the midst of a pennant chase, focusing on every game one at a time truly matters.
For the West Virginia Power, especially at the Class A level, it would be very easy for the players to look ahead at the big picture.
Before the Power is set to begin a crucial four-game series tonight, West Virginia still had one more game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Thursday night.
It turned out to be a disappointing night for the Power as West Virginia suffered a 1-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Grasshoppers at Appalachian Power Park in front of a crowd of 2,226.
Not only was it a tough loss to Greensboro, but a series as well. The Power lost two out of three at home to the Grasshoppers (24-28 in the second half and 57-64 overall). West Virginia had won 13 straight home games prior to the series' beginning.
Power Manager Michael Ryan was still upbeat and positive, though, after the game.
"It's whatever, no big deal," Ryan said. "We flip the page here. We look forward to tomorrow, and we will come better. We aren't even going to worry about it."
Now, the Power (33-19, 70-52) must turn its full attention to the biggest series of the season to date at home against Hickory, starting today through Monday.
The first-place Power now leads Hagerstown by just a half game in the South Atlantic League Northern Division standings after the Suns were victorious 9-1 at Delmarva on Thursday.
Hagerstown won the first half, so if it able to pass the Power and claim the second half, the playoff spot would go to the team with the second best overall record.
The Power also saw its lead trimmed to a 1 1/2 game advantage over Hickory, meaning the four-game tilt against the Crawdads will determine a lot for the playoff push. Hickory earned a 4-1 victory at home over Asheville, also on Thursday.
"It's big," said Ryan, of the series against Hickory. "The way these guys think and the way we try to do things, every series is big, not just what is coming up. We take every game as a big game, and try to get better as players."
The players know what is at stake, and are excited about the opportunity.
"We have a couple big series coming up," Power standout right fielder Josh Bell said. "We got a big few weeks ahead of us. We just have to bring our A game. If we do that, we are going to be a tough team to beat, whether it's now, two weeks from now, or whenever."
The Power looked to have an advantage with the pitching match-up against Greensboro Thursday night with Jason Creasy on the mound for West Virginia with a 4-3 record and low 3.06 earned run average.
Meanwhile, Greensboro countered with Chad James, who has struggled throughout the season with a 1-6 record and 6.52 ERA coming into the game.
However, all that went out the window as even though Creasy did his job for the Power, James was even more impressive, pitching a gem for the Grasshoppers.
James pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, and struck out eight Power players opposed to just two walks.
Creasy went six solid innings, allowing one earned run, and also struck out eight Grasshopper batters, but didnt allow a single base on ball.
In the midst of a pitchers' duel between the two, Greensboro finally scored what proved to be the game's only run in the top of the sixth inning on a solo home run by leadoff hitter Matt Juengel, a line drive over the left field wall, to give the Grasshoppers a 1-0 lead.
Two other Greensboro relievers pitched the final four innings to complete the shutout. Mason Hope pitched three scoreless innings and Ronald Barnes earned the save. On the game, three Grasshoppers struck out 15 Power batters.
"He's (James) is very talented," Ryan said. "He's a first round guy. Creasy was outstanding tonight. There is nothing to feel about. I'm not going to feel sorry for them being outstanding."