Power faces must-win Game 2 tonight at Hagerstown
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Power's first trip to the postseason since 2008 could be a short one. The Power faces elimination tonight from the South Atlantic League playoffs when the team travels to Hagerstown trailing in the best-of-three series 1-0.
Hagerstown, the SAL Northern Division first half champion, got to West Virginia starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow early in Game 1 at Appalachian Power Park and coasted to a 6-1 win to take the series lead. Tonight the Power will send right-hander John Kuchno (9-5, 4.01 ERA) to the mound to face the Suns in a win-or-go-home situation at Municipal Stadium.
"I'm feeling good (about Kuchno)," Power Manager Michael Ryan said after Wednesday's Game 1 loss. "Watching him throw in between starts he's ready to go. He knows what he has to do. The game just got a little bit bigger for him, but he'll respond. That's what he's done all year and that's what we've done all year."
The Power offense was off in Game 1, with the first six players in the batting order combining for two hits. As a team, West Virginia left 12 baserunners stranded and was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"We just lacked the big hit," Ryan said. "We've been getting the bit hit all year and it was just one of those games where we didn't. We were going to lose a game at some point during the playoffs, it just happened to be the first one."
Hagerstown will go with Pedro Encarnacion on the mound tonight. Encarnacion posted a 10-9 record this season and led the Suns with 128 1/3 innings pitched.
He struck out 113 and walked 37, but has not won a game since Aug. 16 at Asheville. Since then he has a no decision and two losses.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch," Suns Manager Tripp Keister said. "He pitched last week. We've been scripting all of our pitchers' innings here the last few weeks, so he's ready to go Friday night."
Keister said with the Suns knowing they were in the playoffs for several months, the team was able to prepare differently than it would if Hagerstown had been in a pennant race the final few weeks of the season.
"It did (change our preparation) but you still have to play," he said. "It's not like you can expand the rosters and then have a bunch of pitchers that you can hold back. You still have to get your innings, get your guys their work and go play. We have a 25-man roster."
The last time the Power was in the SAL playoffs, the club fought through an elimination game to take its opening series against Lake County before being swept in the 2008 championship series Augusta. The Greenjackets had two-time World Series champion Madison Bumgarner on that team.
If West Virginia wants a shot at Charleston's first SAL championship since 1990 (as the Charleston Wheelers) it will have to win both games in Hagerstown before playing either Augusta or Savannah in a best-of-five series.
If the Power advances past Hagerstown, Game 1 of the championship series would be Monday at Appalachian Power Park. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday and would also be a home game for the Power. Wednesday is a travel day with Game 3 set for Thursday at either Augusta or Savannah. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, are scheduled for next Friday and Saturday.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.