Power falls, but clinches postseason berth
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Usually, when the West Virginia Power players get back to their clubhouse after a loss, the mood is silent until manager Michael Ryan addresses the team.
On Thursday night, they made an exception.
Despite losing 4-3 to the Asheville Tourists at Appalachian Power Park, the Power clinched a berth in the South Atlantic League playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Upon entering the clubhouse, the players were given a bottle of champagne each to celebrate. That set off a wild scene of dancing and excitement that lasted over a half hour long.
The Power (78-58 overall, 41-25 in the second half) officially made its way into the playoffs when Hickory dropped a 4-3 decision on the road at Greensboro, its seventh loss in a row.
"That's what it's all about what is going on right now," Ryan said. "I want them to be happy and understand they earned it, and they deserve to enjoy it. They deserve everything that is going on right now. It's good to watch them celebrate."
Ryan would have loved to make the playoffs with a win against Asheville, but he wasn't about to give it back.
"It's the best loss ever," Ryan joked. "We aren't going to get mad about getting in. We have something to look forward to. It takes the pressure off that road trip. This means a lot to these guys."
Ryan indicated the playoff berth meant so much more than just the team.
"It's great for the city, the front office here, and everybody," Ryan said. "I'm glad we get to share that with them. We are excited to have a series here. It's nice. It was a great crowd tonight and we hope they come back out and support us in game one, and carry us to a win."
The Power will open up the South Atlantic League Northern Division championship series at home next Wednesday against first-half champion Hagerstown. The two teams play in Hagerstown on Friday in the three-game series, and there again Saturday, if necessary.
For the past five years, the regular season finale for the West Virginia Power felt like a scene from the movie "Groundhog Day." The Power players would play the final game at Appalachian Power Park, say their goodbyes to everyone, clean out their lockers and where they stayed throughout the season, and head off to their next destination. Thursday night, though, had a completely different feeling to it.
West Virginia pitching coach Jeff Johnson has been involved with Power baseball for several years, and is witnessing playoff fever for the first time.
"It is certainly exciting," Johnson said. "It is different for me. It's my fourth year in West Virginia, and we weren't even close. The best thing about it is to watch how hard they have worked and played, and to be rewarded and get a chance to play further, is outstanding.
"I haven't even thought about packing up," he added. "I have some great people I stay with in Big Chimney. They texted me this morning and said 'When are you leaving? You still have clothes here.' I was like 'I'm going to be here 'til at least next Friday.'"
The Power's success on the field has led to stellar individual achievements as well. On Thursday, Power outfielder Josh Bell and pitcher Tyler Glasnow was selected to the 2013 SAL Annual All-Star team in a league poll the team's managers, general managers, sportswriters, and broadcasters.
Bell was named as one of the top outfielders with a .281 batting average, while Glasnow was selected as the league's top right-handed pitcher. He leads the SAL with 160 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings and holds the Power's single season record in strikeouts.
"I don't see another kid in this league that should win it over him," Johnson said. "It couldn't happen to a better guy. He deserves it. I watch a lot of guys throw, including him, and there are times when he throws one, and I'm like 'wow.' He's got the wow factor."
Glasnow and Bell were both proud of their latest accomplishments individually and teamwise, and to be a part of the post game playoff making celebration.
"This is amazing," Glasnow said. "The whole team definitely deserves it. It's a great moment. This is definitely the best moment in my baseball career. It's hard for me to top. It's been a great year for me and the team. I'm really honored."
"It's been so awesome," Bell said. "I couldn't ask for a better season. We have a chance at a championship."
This is unlike anything I have experienced before. That's great for us and it's so much fun celebrating with my teammates."